Federal vaccine mandate will apply to Maine public sector workers

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 9:30am

    AUGUSTA — The U.S. Department of Labor has informed the Maine Department of Labor that its forthcoming COVID-19 vaccination requirement will apply to public sector employers in Maine, including state, county, and local governments and public school systems, according to a news release. 

    Last week, President Biden announced he has directed OSHA to develop a rule requiring all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated for COVID-19 or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative COVID-19 test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work.

    OSHA will issue an Emergency Temporary Standard to implement this requirement.

    While this Emergency Temporary Standard applies to private employers nationwide, the Maine Department of Labor sought clarification from OSHA about the rule’s applicability to public employers because, under longstanding State law and a 2015 agreement with the Federal government known as a “state plan,” Maine is required to adopt and enforce for public employers all of OSHA’s occupational safety and health standards, the release noted. 

    Under an approved OSHA plan, the Maine Department of Labor is designated as the state agency responsible for the development and enforcement of occupational safety and health standards applicable to state and local government employment throughout the state. Meanwhile, Federal OSHA enforces standards in Maine’s private sector employment.

    Maine is one of 26 states and two territories to have a “state plan” agreement with the federal government.

    OSHA confirmed with the Maine Department of Labor that the forthcoming Emergency Temporary Standard will apply to public sector employers with 100 or more employees in Maine and the 25 other states and two territories with a state OSHA plan.

    In Maine, these public entities include: State and local governments, public school systems, the University of Maine System, the Maine Community College System, Maine Maritime Academy, the Maine Turnpike Authority, and sewer and water districts.

    The Maine Board of Occupational Safety and Health is required to adopt and enforce OSHA’s forthcoming rule for public employers within 30 days of the rule’s release. OSHA’s standards are considered minimum requirements, so states may implement more rigorous standards but cannot implement less rigorous standards than those set out by OSHA.

    OSHA has yet to release its Emergency Temporary Standard so the timeframe and details of its implementation are unknown at this time. The Maine Department of Labor will continue to communicate with impacted stakeholders and the public as more information becomes available from the federal government.