As contractors and construction business groups continue to pressure the Biden administration to revise federal labor safety guidelines that make adverse reactions to mandatory COVID-19 vaccines recordable incidents, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is signaling that it will create its own guidance for employee reactions to the emergency use of authorized vaccines and other return-to-the-workplace issues.
At a virtual summit held May 6, Commissioner Keith Sonderling said the agency needs to consider new guidance that addresses COVID-19 issues for specific industries, such as construction. Doing so would help employers make decisions without wondering if their actions are lawful, he said in a speech during the event held by the Institute for Workplace Equality.
"I stress that the commission must issue new, common-sense guidance on return-to-work and other timely issues," Sonderling said. "Moving forward, the EEOC must begin to issue industry-specific guidance to address the array of issues that are becoming prevalent as the pandemic enters its final stage."
Sonderling said the five agency commissioners already heard testimony this month from workplace experts about the impact COVID-19 has had on American businesses and what it can do to help workers and businesses navigate legal issues the pandemic has generated.
Last month, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued federal guidance related to adverse reactions to employer-mandated vaccines.
OSHA's April 20 guidance remains the most recently updated of any regulatory agency dealing with issues of workplace liability for employers requiring vaccines. However, the Centers for Disease Control and the Biden administration Office of Management and Budget continue to work on additional new OSHA guidelines that are likely to strongly influence any potential guidance from EEOC. A spokesperson for OSHA could not comment on the guidance.
The OSHA guidelines, informed by input from CDC, were expected to be issued by mid-March but were not sent to OMB for final review until April 26.
Now that the administration's own guidance on mask wearing has changed, the guidelines may be further delayed.
OMB has scheduled review meetings on the OSHA rules through May 24, which means they will not be released until at least that date. As a result of the administration shift on masks, CDC guidance on them has changed twice in less than a month.