Vigilant Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law, HR, safety & workers' comp

Jan 20, 2022

States back off from issuing general vaccine mandates

COVID-19Safety and Health 

The states of Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington have all indicated that they don’t currently plan to proceed with their own general workplace vaccine mandates in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to maintain the temporary stay on the federal OSHA COVID-19 (coronavirus) emergency temporary standard (ETS) for employers with 100 or more employees. These states all have their own safety and health agencies and would have been required by OSHA to issue rules at least as effective as the federal standard if it had been upheld. We reported on the Supreme Court’s decision here. Below are the details on each state’s response to the decision:

Arizona: There is no expectation the Industrial Commission of Arizona (ICA) will take steps to adopt the same or similar standards, as Arizona was one of the states that filed lawsuits challenging the OSHA ETS. Upon learning of the Supreme Court’s ruling, Governor Doug Ducey stated he doesn’t want private businesses put in a position where they force employees to “give up their individual liberties.”

California: A proposed general workplace vaccine mandate was on the agenda for today’s California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board meeting, but the Board chair verbally announced at the beginning of the meeting that they will not be adopting any general workplace rules regarding vaccines and testing in light of the Supreme Court’s decision. Health care employers are already subject to COVID-19 vaccine mandates, which can be found in the California Department of Public Health (CDPH)’s State Public Health Officer Order, Health Care Worker Vaccine Requirement.

Oregon: Oregon OSHA’s COVID-19 web page says they will continue to monitor federal OSHA activities and respond as needed, but that they will not go forward with adopting the same or similar standards in Oregon. Oregon already issued its own requirements for health care employers, including COVID-19 vaccine mandates. See the Oregon Health Authority (OHA)’s amended temporary rule, currently expiring January 31, 2022, and accompanying FAQs.

Washington: The State has yet to publish anything regarding its intent to proceed with a testing and/or vaccination mandate, but Governor Jay Inslee did respond to a question in his January 13, 2022, press conference (at about the 49th minute) stating he does not have any imminent plans to impose additional vaccine or testing mandates, although it isn’t out of the question in the future. Washington already issued requirements for health care employers, including COVID-19 vaccine mandates. See the Governor’s Proclamation 21-14.3 and accompanying FAQs.

Tips: Continue to monitor your state and local requirements to ensure compliance with other COVID-19 requirements, such as masking, isolation protocols (if an employee gets sick) and quarantine protocols (if an employee is exposed to someone who has the virus). See our recent newsletter article on the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington follow the CDC’s guidance, while the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) order takes a slightly stricter approach. Vigilant will continue to monitor developments and keep members informed. If you have any questions, contact your Vigilant Law Group employment attorney.

This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.