OSHA vaccine mandate puts unjust restrictions on American businesses

Retailers have already taken unprecedented steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19

On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would promulgate a new emergency temporary standard requiring employers with 100 employees or more to ensure their workers are vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested weekly. On the day of the announcement, the seven-day average number of cases in the United States was 147,831 per day. By October 25, that number had plummeted by more than half — to 70,291.

Over the same period, the percentage of fully vaccinated Americans increased from 53.7 percent to 57.7 percent. That this notable progress could be made without the imposition of a burdensome, one-size-fits-all governmental vaccine mandate begs the obvious question: Why impose the polarizing OSHA standard?

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American retailers have invested tens of billions of dollars over the past 18 months to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. NRF members’ efforts to keep employees and customers safe have included mask requirements, capacity limits, social distancing rules, traffic flow floor markings and plexiglass partitions.

Moreover, since the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines, retailers nationwide have taken unprecedented steps to distribute and incentivize the vaccine. These incentives, implemented consistent with guidance from Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines, have had a significant impact on vaccination efforts.

Some NRF members have voluntarily instituted vaccine mandates for employees. They have done so with careful planning and forethought and have targeted these mandates appropriately, tailored to the needs and nature of their workforce.

But what makes sense for one retailer might be completely unworkable in another retailer’s business. Vaccines mandates, for example, might not make much sense at a retailer whose employees work outdoors and are naturally socially distanced. Employers have been able to make these distinctions, and, as the decline in case numbers demonstrates, have done so effectively.

Government mandates like the forthcoming OSHA rule only divide Americans and unjustly thrust American employers, including retailers preparing for the busy holiday season, into the middle of a contentious, politicized debate. The administration would be wise to discontinue this effort.

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