For employers who manage a unionized workforce, it is important to remember that even though you technically can mandate a vaccine in your workplace, you cannot do it without first bargaining with your workers union. Specifically, according to labor law expert Jill Lashay,
“If you unilaterally implement a mandatory vaccine policy when it’s not been addressed in your current collective bargaining agreement, that may lead to a successful unfair labor practice charge against the employer.” More details here.
The EEOC originally provided guidance on how to handle a pandemic in the workplace during the H1N1 outbreak. They have updated their recommendations to address COVID-19. You can find the publication, which is organized into an easy-to-navigate FAQ format, here.
Since the start of the pandemic through the end of 2020, OSHA issued citations totaling almost $4 million in proposed penalties for pandemic violations. Top violations include failures to:
- Implement a written respiratory protection program;
- Provide a medical evaluation training for proper use of PPE;
- Report an injury, illness or fatality;
- Record an injury or illness on proper OSHA recordkeeping forms; and
- Comply with the General Duty Clause of the OSHA Act of 1970.
The NLRB has issued two more advice memos on remote bargaining and hazard pay during the pandemic. They include:
- Good faith bargaining may not require remote negotiations; and
- An employer need not agree to reopen contract for hazard pay negotiations
And lastly on the pandemic front, the effect of COVID-19 on mental health in both on-site and remote workers is becoming hard to ignore. Research suggests and intuition assumes that the hardest hit are the frontline healthcare workers; but even among the general workforce, the data indicates a higher risk of symptoms of anxiety or depression, increased substance abuse, and general difficulty coping with stress.