Effects of New CDC Guidelines on Employers, Workplace

Then from five thousand throats and more, there rose a lusty yell;

It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;

It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the row

For the CDC, the Mighty CDC, has said without a mask, we may go!

The basic tenets of the new CDC guidelines are that vaccinated people need not wear masks around other vaccinated people. So, what is the Occupational Health and Safety Administration telling employers to do? Honestly, nothing new. OSHA has yet to issue any revised guidelines that take into consideration the latest CDC findings.

Employers, no stranger in this crowd can doubt, are still left at bat uncertain whether the new CDC revelations or the earlier OSHA guidelines control. Under the reigning workplace COVID-19 rules, employers must appoint a COVID-19 czar, do hazard evaluations of their workplaces and devise a COVID-19 safety plan all while analyzing the CDC guidance du jour.

So, are you telling us vaccinated employees don’t have to wear masks? Well, not exactly. The new guidelines apply to vaccinated individuals, in limited circumstances, when they are around other vaccinated people. The problem is: How do you know if everyone in your workplace has been vaccinated?

Hey, come on, that’s easy, let’s just make our employees get vaccinated at work. We’ll set up an on-site vaccination center, make it mandatory and give everyone a prize. Like Ohio’s $5 million lottery and scholarship program, Maryland’s $100 state employee prize, West Virginia’s savings bonds for high school students or Detroit’s $50 for driving a resident to get a shot. And the pièce de résistance – free beer in New Jersey and free cocktails in Connecticut for the whole month of May!

See, as long as our vaccinated employees have no contact at work with non-vaccinated people, we’ll be in compliance. After all, in 2009, both the EEOC and OSHA held that employers with legitimate business reasons could require employees to take the flu shot so long as the employees are “properly informed of the benefits of vaccinations” (whatever that means!). All in all, employers should not be naïve. Due to the Facebook Factor, many people even if faced with mandatory employer vaccinations might decline and say “That ain’t my style; it’s my Constitutional Right to Wait Awhile.”

Trying to vaccinate everyone who sets foot in a place of business would no doubt put employers in deep despair. Because how do you also assure vaccinations for customers, spouses, and new employees in your care?

Here’s our reality. Oklahoma’s outlook isn’t brilliant yet today – we don’t have even 40% of our residents vaccinated and ready to play. Likewise, a lot of the state is still at risk for moderate COVID-19 community spread. Hey, it looks like to masks we may continue to be wed!

Best practices suggest not moving too fast. Employers should consider following the current guidance prescribed for unvaccinated people. The easiest thing to do is to use distancing or barriers; if that’s not possible bring out the masks.

Even now you still may ask, why take all these COVID-19 precautions?

Because somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,

The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;

And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,

but you don’t want to end up like Casey and hear OSHA say YOU’VE STRUCK OUT!

This article first appeared in The Journal Record on May 21, 2021, and is reproduced with permission from the publisher.


Associated People:

Madalene A.B. Witterholt

Practice Area:

Labor & Employment