While available vaccines have proven highly effective in controlling COVID-19 and its variants to date, the virus continues to spread, particularly among unvaccinated populations. In the face of flagging interest, officials across the U.S. have tried different approaches to increase vaccination rates. For example, officials launched incentive programs, stressed personal responsibility, deployed mobile vaccination units, and coordinated with corporate and community partners to encourage and effectuate vaccine uptake.
But having exhausted these avenues, and with the rise of more contagious COVID-19 variants, some officials are going a step further. Several states and municipalities announced that, in essence, they are requiring certain categories of workers to be vaccinated. Generally, under these types of mandates, workers who decline vaccination must comply with measures that do not apply to their vaccinated counterparts, such as weekly COVID-19 testing and/or mask wearing. Depending on the jurisdiction and the sector involved, however, unvaccinated workers might not have such alternatives.
The chart below – current as of November 7, 2021 at 9:00 a.m. (Central) – provides basic information on vaccination mandates issued at the federal and statewide levels. It covers directives that affect public or private entities as employers.
This chart also includes information about state responses to the vaccine-or-test emergency temporary standard (ETS), which was released on November 4, 2021 by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). That information will be provided only for states that have workplace safety and health programs approved by OSHA. States that do not operate their own OSHA-approved plans are subject to the federal regulations. States with approved plans are required to adopt standards that are at least as effective as (even if not identical to) OSHA’s standards. Under federal regulations, after receiving notice of the issuance of the ETS, states with approved plans have 15 days to advise OSHA of their responses and another 15 days to implement compliant standards.
This post does not address local guidance, orders that relate to customer or patron vaccination status (e.g., “vaccine passports”), narrower mandates specific only to schools or educational institutions, or recommendations that do not impose obligations. We will update this list regularly but expect that new announcements will be made frequently.
In addition, this post does not address pending litigation over particular mandates, or other significant substantive issues related to employee vaccinations, including potential leaves of absence, discrimination, accommodation, incentives, and privacy concerns. As a result, employers should consult with counsel for guidance on these legal questions and the latest developments.