Companies that refuse to comply with President Biden’s vaccine-or-testing mandate will face “quite significant” fines that exceed $10,000 for each violation, the White House said Friday.
Mr. Biden told the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue rules mandating firms with 100 or more workers to require vaccination or weekly testing of those who refuse the shots.
“If a workplace refuses to follow the standard, the OSHA fines can be quite significant. Enforcement actions include fines up to $13,600 per violation,” White House COVID-19 Coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters.
The mandate on private employers is causing the biggest uproar among critics of Mr. Biden’s six-pronged plan to combat COVID-19 and its delta variant. Some pro-vaccine Republicans say the backlash and potential legal fights might be self-defeating.
“Private businesses have the legal authority to impose vaccine mandates on their customers and or employees if they see fit,” Sen. Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican, said. “But federal government mandates, of dubious legality, will further alienate the skeptical, undermine our institutions, and punish ordinary business owners and their employees.”
Experts say OSHA has broad authority to demand rules that make workplaces safer, but it is unclear if mandating a vaccine fits under that umbrella.
Josh Blackman, a professor at the South Texas College of Law, said Mr. Biden’s vaccine push might go beyond the statutory authority Congress granted OSHA since an injection could be considered conduct that extends beyond the workplace.
“There are going to be thousands of suits,” Mr. Blackman said. “Some court somewhere will stop it.”
The employer rules, if implemented, could lift vaccination rates but still not reach seniors who are out of the workforce and typically bear the brunt of bad outcomes from COVID-19.
More than eight in 10 Americans over age 65 are fully vaccinated, though immunized seniors are most likely to be affected by waning antibodies after eight months or so.
The Biden administration said that’s why it is pushing a booster program that will support immunity to the virus with a third dose.
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said the administration will continue to reach out to unvaccinated seniors. He also said the “collective” effort of younger, healthier adults getting vaccinated will reduce the likelihood of spread to the vulnerable.