Does implementation of OSHA COVID vaccine rule subtlety undermine workplace safety and signal broader move to weaken workplace rights in light of pandemic?

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Bloomberg News reported that employees who refuse vaccinations under the proposed OSHA COVID vaccination rule could be forced to pay for COVID testing and masks.

While many liberals may cheer this result, former Obama administration OSHA official Jordan Barab blogged that forcing employees to pay for protective gear satisfies a long-standing demand from business.

Barab also pointed out that exempting companies that employ under 100 workers from the vaccine rule is unprecedented for OSHA. OSHA safety rules typically apply to all employers regardless of size.

While OSHA fines could increase as part of the reconciliation bill, OSHA’s proposals to shift protective gear costs onto employees and exempt small employers from  is a disturbing trend. Barab described them as a “camels nose under the tent” for business interests.

I agree with Barab, but I have some other reasons why I don’t like how the proposed vaccine rule could be implemented by OSHA.

Effects on workers compensation?

Like OSHA standards, workers compensation laws apply broadly to employers regardless of size. But if smaller employers are exempted from OSHA requirements, these employers may ask why they are required to carry workers compensation insurance.  OSHA regulations and workers compensation laws both regulate workplace safety. If OSHA concedes their regulations are too burdensome for small employers, it could be hard to convince state legislators that workers compensation laws aren’t overly burdensome for smaller employers.

Legal backlash against COVID denialism

Back in August 2020, I wrote about how I thought backlash against COVID deniers could build support to weaken laws that protect employees. The proposed implementation of the OSHA vaccination rule is one example of this phenomenon.

The Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the Rehabilitation Act filed by CVS Pharmacy that could end up substantially undermining the Americans with Disabilities Act. Business wanted to weaken the ADA before the pandemic. Some challenges to vaccine mandates are likely to come under the ADA. Decisions in those cases may accelerate the undermining of the ADA desired by business interests before the pandemic.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett, Moore & Rehm, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

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