Sep 16 2021
On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced a new “COVID-19 Action Plan” that he says will help the country find a “path out of the pandemic.” The Plan has six elements, several of which will affect employers and employees, including here in Connecticut.
As has been widely reported, the hallmark of the plan is a requirement that all employers with 100+ employees mandate that their employees get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing; that all federal workers and federal contractors mandate that their employees get vaccinates; and that all healthcare workers for employers that receive funding through Medicare or Medicaid also get vaccinated. All told, the requirement to vaccinate eventually will extend to more than 100 million American workers, including hundreds of thousands of Connecticut employees.
The legal mechanisms for these requirements are complicated, but in a nutshell, the President has instructed various agencies within his Administration – including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Department of Defense, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services – to issue rules and regulations spelling out the details of these mandates. Employers then will be responding to those rules and regulations as they are issued and as the inevitable lawsuits challenging those proclamations wind their way through the courts.
So what does this all mean for Connecticut employees? For workers who are employed by the government or by large companies, it means that vaccine mandates are likely coming – if they have not already arrived. Even smaller-scale employers are likely to see this White House mandate as a license -if not an implicit directive – to start mandating vaccines for their employees and as legal cover for doing so if that is what they want.
As we have explained, vaccine mandates are likely lawful, so long as employers allow exemptions for disabilities, religious beliefs, and pregnancy. Employers not only can mandate the vaccine; but they also can ask for proof of vaccination, which is not a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (or HIPAA) or a prohibited disability-related inquiry under the Americans with Disabilities Act (or ADA). However, Connecticut employees have a legal right for their private medical information – including their vaccination status – to remain private and not to be used as the basis for any decisions about their employment.