WH says vaccination mandates will go ahead regardless of Texas law

Businesses with more than 100 employees will have to ensure their workers are vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4 or get tested weekly for the virus under new rules announced Thursday by the Biden administration that will affect around 80 million workers across the country.

The White House said “more vaccinations are needed to save lives, protect the economy, and accelerate recovery from the pandemic.”

Health care workers at Medicare and Medicaid participating facilities must also be fully immunized, which the White House says applies nationwide to more than 17 million workers at about 76,000 health care centers, including hospitals and long-term care facilities.

The White House said the new rules take precedence over all state and local laws, weakening Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on COVID-19 vaccination mandates, labor lawyers said.

Abbott issued an executive order last month prohibiting any entity in Texas, including private companies, from requiring anyone to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The Biden administration’s new rule would reverse part of the ban, but Abbott’s order would still apply to everyone else in the state, including local governments, school districts and small businesses. .

“Governor Abbott continues to hear from countless Texans who fear losing their jobs because of this overreach by the federal government,” Abbott spokeswoman Renae Eze said in a written statement. “The Biden administration has left Texans in the impossible position of having to choose between supporting their families or being fired for not getting the COVID vaccine because of their religious beliefs, medical condition, or conscience. personal.”

However, labor attorney Karen Vladeck said federal rules allow for medical and religious exemptions. The statement from the governor’s office also hinted at future legal action.

Employers will not be required to pay for or provide workers with testing, which will put more pressure on employees to get vaccinated to avoid inconvenient testing requirements.

“It’s onerous for the employees,” said Vladeck, who is based in Austin. “You have to pay for your own tests, which are very expensive, or you have to go in person to get tested, which takes time.”

It was immediately unclear how many employees in Texas would be affected by the new rules.

The conflicting state and federal orders had caused confusion among the companies. Days after Abbott issued his order banning vaccination mandates, companies that entered into employment contracts with the federal government were also required to have all of their employees vaccinated by order of the White House.

Conflicting vaccine mandates put the many Texas companies that receive federal contracts in a difficult position: Comply with federal law and violate Abbott’s ban, or comply with Abbott and refuse federal government business.

American Airlines and Southwest Airlines said they would continue to require employee vaccinations despite Abbott’s new order.

The Texas business community as a whole also pushed back on legislation stemming from Abbott’s order. Texas bills intended to prevent any Texas entity, including hospitals and private companies, from mandating COVID-19 vaccines on employees were a priority for Abbott in the latest special legislation. But the bills failed to pass after business groups spoke out against the proposals and at least one key Republican lawmaker spoke out against one of the bills, calling it a “anti-business”.

Texas and other states have already sued the Biden administration over COVID-19 vaccination rules for federal contractors, which went into effect in October.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texatribune.org/2021/11/04/white-house-vaccination-businesses/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom that informs and engages Texans about politics and state politics. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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