Local businesses concerned with COVID employee mandates

Employment attorneys are fielding questions
COVID-19 Vaccine bottles
Posted at 5:39 PM, Nov 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-08 17:42:37-05

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Should COVID vaccines be required for employees of small businesses with less than 100 workers? That’s the question OSHA leaders are considering as rules for larger companies are set to go into effect in less than two months.

At Crabby Bill’s in Indian Rocks Beach, owner Matthew Loder has reduced his restaurant hours and his number of employees is down 45 from pre-pandemic levels.

Now, he’s concerned about a new requirement forcing businesses like his with more than 100 employees to mandate employees get COVID-19 vaccines.

“We don’t need this challenge with all the other things like food cost and product supply shortages,” Loder explained.

Loder worries it will make the ongoing labor shortage worse.

“We’ve had to pay more just to keep people on staff because of other companies coming in and trying to steal employees and having people work overtime due to the shortages in other positions that are open so employees who are working, are working a lot. To think we might lose another 10% of our workforce as a result of this mandate is very concerning.”

Crabby Bill's in Indian Rocks Beach
Crabby Bill's in Indian Rocks Beach

President Joe Biden’s administration has already released plans to require the COVID-19 vaccine or weekly testing for all employees of companies with more than 100 workers. OSHA is threatening to fine businesses up to $14,000 for each employee that does not comply with the new mandate.

The rules are set to take effect January 4thand businesses will have to submit a plan to meet the guidelines by December 5th.

The Biden Administration said the change will impact about 84 million workers across the United States and employment attorneys are being peppered with questions from local business owners.

“There’s going to be some businesses that will file legal challenges to it and employers who say what do I do now, what’s the best way for me the employer to protect myself?” explained Robert Shimberg of Hill Ward Henderson.

“There’s litigation in a number of courts and I think in the coming weeks we’re going to get some more clarity,” added Brad DeBeaubien, an employment law attorney at Shumaker.

Both attorneys said employers should start figuring out how they will abide by the ruling now, while also watching court proceedings in other states.

“Employers do want to keep an eye on what’s happening in the court so they’re up to speed on it so if nothing else they can answer the questions of employees who say wait a minute where do things stand and is the rule moving forward?” Shimberg elaborated.

OSHA leaders estimate the new COVID vaccine plan could “save thousands of lives and prevent hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations.”

Yet, Loder argues the decision to vaccinate should be a personal choice.

“It’s body autonomy. People should be able to decide for themselves what’s best for themselves,” he said.

Currently, businesses with less than 100 employees are not targeted by the new rules, but OSHA said they could be included in future guidance.