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Employee vs. Employer: Who Foots the Bill for Unvaccinated Worker COVID Testing?

The Biden Administration’s Mandate Continues to Cause Questions, Headaches.


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Key Points

  • The legality of vaccine mandates is still being fought out at state and federal levels.
  • A new hitch – who will cover the costs for the unvaccinated to be tested weekly?
  • Insurance may not and employers may be paying thousands to cover unvaccinated workers.

While the legality of vaccine mandates is still being fought at federal and state levels – with many GOP governors taking a hard stance against them – Biden may have another battle on his hands with his plan to make unvaccinated workers pay for their own COVID testing.

According to Politico, “The prospect of hitting businesses with new testing costs as many struggle to staff backup could harden opposition to Biden’s plan, and hamper the president’s latest push to end the pandemic.”

The Biden administration is pushing the idea that companies pass the cost of weekly testing off to their employees – but it may not be that simple. According to Politico, “Business groups and labor-law experts argue that existing laws will likely require companies to cover those costs for workers who claim religious or disability exemptions to the Covid-19 vaccines, at a price that could reach hundreds of dollars per person each month.”

So the financial burden of testing will be passed on to the companies, further hindering a floundering economy. 

The vaccine mandate isn’t overwhelmingly popular to begin with – many members of congress consider it an example of massive government overreach.

“[The mandate] will only create more confusion and legal challenges,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the ranking member of the Senate health committee, said in a statement to POLITICO.

“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,” Burr added.

Now there’s a showdown brewing between employees and employers, with employees concerned about having to pay for their own masks, tests and other safety equipment. These are costs usually covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

“It’s very unfortunate that this new rule does not require employers to pay for face masks, or for the cost of testing for workers who choose not to get vaccinated,”said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of OSHA.

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

“I think employers will be hard pressed to push [costs] on to employees who fall properly within [religious or disability] exemptions,” said Ian Carleton Schaefer, chair of Loeb and Loeb’s employment and labor practice in New York City.

Another wildcard? Whether or not insurance companies will cover COVID testing in the workplace. It’s still unclear and making an already-difficult proposal more confusing.

Maybe Ol’ Joe didn’t think this one through.