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Private sector employers across the country and here in New York who have 100 employees or more must require that their employees either be vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID-19 by Jan. 4, according to new federal regulations.
Employees who are not vaccinated must also wear a face mask at work, beginning on Dec. 5.
Leslie Silva, an attorney at Tully Rinckey, said she believes the federal government does have the power to issue regulations like these over private companies.
“OSHA is an agency. It’s been around a long time, it’s nothing new,” Silva said. “They’re about 50 years old. They’re from the Nixon era. So they have had authority to do things like this for quite a while.”
These new regulations will impact around 84 million employees across the country.
Workers who do not comply will risk possible termination.
Employees can claim a religious or medical exemption from being vaccinated, but they still must mask and be tested regularly.
These regulations are already facing legal challenges from states like Florida and more lawsuits are expected to be filed over the next few months.
OSHA will investigate any complaints and the agency has a whistleblower system that allows workers to report any possible violations at their workplaces.
Penalties for companies that do not comply will start at up to $13,653 per violation, but the agency can fine businesses ten times that amount for repeat offenses.
“If you’re an employer that is not going to be complying, your first offense is going to be pretty substantial,” Silva explained. “But the repeated offenses can be up to 10 times the initial amount so you could be looking at a penalty over six figures if you repeatedly do not comply with this mandate.”
These new OSHA regulations will not affect public workers here in New York since the state already requires public employees to either be vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID-19.