Biden’s Vaccine Mandate Could Hurt Businesses Forced to Cover Testing Costs

Biden's Vaccine Mandate Could Hurt Businesses Forced to Cover Testing Costs richard burr speaks in hearing Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., gives an opening statement during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to discuss reopening schools during COVID-19 at Capitol Hill on Sept. 30, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Greg Nash- Pool/Getty Images)

By Charlie McCarthy | Tuesday, 09 November 2021 08:28 AM

Despite President Joe Biden's desire that unvaccinated workers pay for COVID-19 tests, existing laws likely will demand that companies cover those costs, Politico reported.

Many businesses trying to recover from the pandemic, however, are not able or eager to pay for employees being tested.

"[The vaccine mandate] is a federal overstep that will only create more confusion and legal challenges," Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the ranking member of the Senate health committee, told Politico in a statement.

"The move proves the administration continues to be out of touch with working Americans and risks exacerbating labor and testing shortages. Heavy-handed mandates will not solve this problem. Instead, the administration should foster cooperation with businesses and workers, with clear communication, transparency, and trust."

Biden in early September announced plans to implement a vaccine mandate for companies with more than 100 employees. Workers who refuse to get vaccinated must undergo weekly testing.

Politico reported that business groups and labor-law experts argue that existing laws likely will require companies to cover testing costs — perhaps hundreds of dollars per person each month — for workers who claim religious or disability exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccines.

Even people normally supportive of Biden are concerned about making unvaccinated people pay for their own masks and tests.

"It's very unfortunate that this new [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] rule does not require employers to pay for face masks, or for the cost of testing for workers who choose not to get vaccinated," National Council for Occupational Safety and Health Co- Executive Director Jessica Martinez told Politico.

"Pushing these costs onto workers is wrong-headed and an unprecedented departure from all previous OSHA standards."

Companies also must provide accommodations for workers who say they can't get vaccinated because of religious beliefs or a disability, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said.

Ed Egee, of the National Retail Federation, told Politico that members of his organization likely will cover the costs of testing while a worker's exemption request is being considered.

Overtime and minimum wage laws also likely will require that employers pay for testing during the workday.

How insurance companies deal with employee testing remains uncertain, Politico reported.

Federal judges in New Orleans paused the vaccine mandate from taking effect, saying it raises "grave statutory and constitutional issues" and told the federal government to explain why the stay should not be made permanent.

The Biden administration framed its vaccine mandate in life-and-death terms Monday in a legal filing that sought to get the requirement back on track after it was halted by the federal court.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.