DENVER (KDVR) — President Joe Biden’s plan to beat the surging COVID-19 delta variant includes ordering new federal vaccine requirements for millions of American workers and businesses.
Part of the plan announced Thursday would mandate vaccines or weekly testing for employees at companies with 100 or more workers.
Who is impacted?
About 800,000 people work at Colorado companies with 100 or more employees, according to data from the state Department of Labor and Employment.
The largest group is healthcare and social assistance workers. Many are already required to get the shot by their employer or under a state mandate. Manufacturing, retail and transportation workers also make up large portions of the impacted employees.
Can the U.S. government legally mandate businesses to require vaccinations?
Bryan Kuhn, a Denver employment and business attorney, said it’s unclear if the federal government is crossing a legal line by imposing these new requirements.
“I’m not clear that mandating health standards — like someone taking a specific medication or vaccine — if the federal government does have that power. That remains to be seen,” Kuhn said.
Kuhn said from a legal standpoint, it’s more challenging for the federal government to order mandates as opposed to state government.
Do employers have to abide by the rules?
The Biden administration said Thursday businesses can face a $14,000 fine per violation.
“I would recommend employers abide by it for now, pending court challenge. If the court challenge favors the federal government, you would not be in a good position to have not abided by it,” Kuhn said.
Can employers track employee vaccination and testing status?
Kuhn said employers can require a copy of a COVID-19 vaccination card, but proving the authenticity of that card would be difficult. Kuhn said it’s unclear how COVID-19 regulations fit into current medical privacy laws.
“I would hope that people ask the government — the federal government — to enact simple legislation that just gives guidance and requirements to employers,” Kuhn said.