The New Normal in the Time of COVID

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Eighteen months ago, when the first COVID shutdown was implemented, we thought that it would be for a short period and then everything would return to normal. Now we are coming to grips with the idea that life and work as we knew it pre-pandemic may never be the same. Going forward employers will need to adapt to the “new normal” in order to successfully operate their business.
On September 9 President Biden signed Executive Orders mandating all employers with more than 100 workers to require them to be fully vaccinated or tested for the virus at least weekly; requiring vaccinations for all employees of the federal executive branch and contractors who do business with the federal government, with no option to test out; and requiring employees at health care facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid to be fully vaccinated. Businesses that do not comply with these vaccine mandates will be subject to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fines up to $14,000 per violation.

Can small business owners (<100 employees) legally require employees to be vaccinated?
Yes, they can according to an opinion issued by the Department of Justice in July. Since the Pfizer vaccine received full approval from the FDA on August 23, many businesses, entertainment venues and government agencies have issued mandates for employees and customers to be vaccinated or, in some cases, provide a recent negative COVID test.  Business owners who require employees to be vaccinated must have a written policy and honor exemptions for legitimate medical or religious reasons.

Can business owners legally require employees to wear face coverings at work?
Yes, and many local governments have issued mask mandates that business owners are required to enforce. Employers may implement a written policy requiring employees to wear face coverings at work to reduce the spread of COVID. Since most workers are at-will employees, failure to wear a mandated face-covering or to wear it correctly (covering both nose and mouth) may result in disciplinary action or termination of employment. Employees who have a disability that prevents them from wearing a facial covering may request a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, however, a disability does not provide an automatic exemption from complying with workplace health and safety requirements.
The COVID vaccines are the most effective tool that we have to end the pandemic. Masking up helps prevent the spread of the virus. The “new normal” will require business owners and their employees to adapt to these changes.

the payroll tax credit that was available to businesses that provided paid COVID leave for employees ends on September 30.

An HR professional can help business owners navigate these and other workplace changes.
From hiring the right employees, running background checks, creating employee handbooks that include anti-harassment policies and procedures, and so much more, Next Level Solutions can work with you to provide the services that you need to run your business.
For more information about our accounting and human resource services, contact Next Level Solutions at info@nextlevelsol.net or (225) 330-8347.