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.