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New OSHA Guidelines Urge Workplace Vaccinations

Of interest to rental housing owners and operators, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) recently released updated guidance that encourages employers to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for employees returning to work. The guidance also suggests that workplaces should continue to implement face covering protocols for both vaccinated and unvaccinated employees, guests and customers at indoor locations. OSHA’s latest advisory comes just three months after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued recommendations which downplayed the need for face coverings in indoor public settings. 

In January, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) was ordered to determine the feasibility and scope of an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that would govern the ways in which certain industries protect their workforces from exposure to COVID-19. DOL and OSHA exceeded the timeline issued by President Biden, instead releasing guidance in piecemeal on voluntary mitigation practices like social distancing, wearing of face coverings and vaccinations. Guidance also covered building operation functions such as voluntary minimum standards for building ventilation systems.

OSHA’s recommendations for workplace vaccination requirements come at a time when concerns are mounting over the new delta variant and vaccination rates appear stagnant. In March, the National Apartment Association (NAA), in conjunction with insurance and risk advisory firm HUB International, held a learning session that discussed the legality and inherent risks of mandatory vaccination programs. According to HUB’s guidance, employers face no hurdles requiring vaccinations in the workplace so long as reasonable accommodations are made for employees requesting medical or religious exemption.

At the time of the learning session, three COVID-19 vaccines had been granted emergency use authorization. In August, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fully approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. With the FDA’s stamp of approval, employers may show greater confidence in implementing mandatory vaccination programs in the workplace.

NAA will continue to monitor new guidance from OSHA and analyze its impact on employers and employees within the rental housing industry.

For more information on labor and employment issues, please reach out to Sam Gilboard, NAA’s Manager of Public Policy.