By Mark K. Cameron
Last month, President Biden announced plans to implement a vaccine mandate for qualifying employers, medical facilities, and federal employees and contractors. At the time, officials indicated that the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) would enforce the mandate with fines of up to nearly $14,000 per violation. A recently proposed bill, H.R. 5376 a.k.a. the “Build Back Better Act,” is making its way through Congress and proposes much larger fines against violating employers, however. The proposed resolution was approved by the House Budget Committee and introduced on the House floor on September 27, 2021.
Currently, OSHA has the power, pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 666, to assess the following fines for violations of its regulations:
- Willful or repeated violation—minimum $5,000; maximum $70,000
- Serious Violation—maximum $7,000
- Non-Serious Violation—maximum $7,000
- Willful or repeated violation—minimum $50,000; maximum $700,000
- Serious Violation—maximum $70,000
- Non-Serious Violation—maximum $70,000
OSHA has shown its willingness during the pandemic to hold employers accountable. For example, in March 2021 one employer faced $136,532 in penalties for willfully failing to implement COVID safeguards to protect employees. If the Act passes without any modifications, employers with 100 or more employees should be prepared to implement and enforce the new mandate requirements immediately to avoid any chance of facing such astronomical fines.