Biden’s Vaccine Order Prompts Burning Questions From the Nation’s Largest Employers

Consumer Brands Association, whose nearly 2,000 members include Coca-Cola and General Mills, sent a letter demanding "immediate clarity" on the details of Biden's vaccine order.

The banner of a pop-up Covid-19 vaccination center is seen in a Bilka supermarket in Ishoej, Denmark, on vaccination day, on September 11, 2021. CLAUS BECH/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images

A trade group representing the nation’s $2 trillion packaged goods industry has some urgent questions regarding President Biden’s executive order that requires companies with 100 or more employees to mandate COVID-19 vaccination or weekly testing.

Consumer Brands Association, whose nearly 2,000 members include Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s and General Mills, sent a letter to the White House on Monday demanding “immediate clarity” on the details of Biden’s vaccine order, which is expected to affect 80 million American workers.

“Federal agencies must move quickly, anticipate challenges, promptly answer questions, and partner with the private sector if we are to realize successful implementation of the administration’s COVID-19 action plan and achieve our shared goal of increased vaccination rates,” wrote Geoff Freeman, Consumer Brands Association’s president and CEO.

In a statement last Thursday following Biden’s announcement of his administration’s COVID-19 Action Plan, Freeman said the consumer packaged goods industry supports efforts to vaccinate as many Americans as possible, but the industry needs the government to offer “clear, detailed and timely guidance in hours, not weeks.”

“Strong, consistent collaboration between the private and public sector on implementation will accelerate progress on our shared goal,” he wrote in Monday’s letter.

Biden’s COVID-19 Action Plan calls upon the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to create and issue Emergency Temporary Standards requiring employers with more than 100 employees to impose a vaccine or regular testing requirement.

“Employers are currently in the dark as to the specifics of how OSHA will require compliance reporting. The emergency rule has not yet been drafted,” Rob Shavell, privacy advocate and CEO of DeleteMe, a privacy information removal service, told Observer. “Without a plan to prove vaccination status, waiver status, or weekly diagnostic testing, large employers, schools and healthcare facilities face thousands of dollars in penalties and fines per violation.”

Under Biden’s plan, businesses that don’t comply face fines up to $14,000 per violation.

In Monday’s letter, Consumer Brands Association shared a sampling of 19 questions it received from member companies, touching on everything from proof of vaccination to booster shots to the impact on employers with union contracts.

Vaccinations

  • What is considered documentation for proof of vaccination and how will booster vaccinations be factored into compliance?
  • Must an employee be “fully vaccinated” in order to work?
  • How will the requirements address natural immunity? Will individuals that have contracted COVID-19 be required to be vaccinated or submit to testing requirements?
  • Will the requirements only apply to vaccines that are fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration?
  • Does the government have plans to centralize vaccination tracking or is it the responsibility of businesses to manage?
  • What are the consequences of falsifying one’s vaccination status and does responsibility rest with the individual or employer?

Testing

  • Is there a single testing standard that must be met that would be considered compliant to the negative test result requirement?
  • What is considered suitable documentation of a negative test result?
  • For how long will documentation of test results need to be held?
  • If an employee takes a COVID-19 test but the results are not yet available, is the employee allowed to continue to work pending the results?
  • Will business testing programs that test all employees on site throughout the day meet the requirements for unvaccinated workers need to test “before coming to work”?
  • Should employees choose not to vaccinate, is the company or employee responsible for securing and paying for testing? Will paid time off be required for weekly testing requirements?

Operational

  • When will the requirements be formally issued and what is the timeline for compliance?
  • How does this mandate impact locations with collective bargaining and existing collective bargaining agreements?
  • Will this federal requirement preempt existing state-imposed obligations?
  • Will the federal requirements supersede state expense reimbursement statutes?
  • Do the new federal requirements include exemptions based on sincerely held religious beliefs and disabilities?
  • Will waivers be allowed if essential employee absences or attrition cause significant disruption to the CPG supply chain?
Biden’s Vaccine Order Prompts Burning Questions From the Nation’s Largest Employers