LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Some of Louisville’s largest employers are evaluating new rules announced Thursday by the Biden administration that they have until Jan. 4 to have all their employees vaccinated against COVID-19 or have them tested weekly.
The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Thursday issued rules crafting the original announcement of Biden’s vaccine mandate in September. Under the new rules, companies with 100 or more employees must grant paid time off from Dec.5 to employees so they can get vaccinated as well as sick leave for side effects, if needed.
Unvaccinated employees must wear a mask inside the workplace from December 5, according to the rules. And employers are not required to provide or pay for testing for employees, although some may be obligated to do so if it is part of a collective agreement with a union for the company’s workers.
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The Biden administration estimated that the move will impact 84 million workers in the private sector.
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Louisville’s largest employer, UPS – which has more than 24,000 total employees in the region, including at its massive Worldport hub at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport – is evaluating the new rules, but officials have not immediately declared that they would comply.
“UPS is reviewing OSHA’s mandate, and we continue to encourage all of our employees to get vaccinated,” company spokesperson Jim Mayer told the Courier Journal Thursday.
Ford Motor Co., which employs about 12,500 employees in Louisville between its Louisville assembly plant and the Kentucky truck plant, is also taking some time to assess the new OSHA guidelines, according to the spokesperson for the company, Kelli Felker.
The Dearborn, Mich.-Based automaker has required vaccinations for employees traveling overseas for work.
“Ford continues to strongly encourage all eligible employees to be vaccinated,” Felker told the Courier Journal Thursday. “We believe the vaccine plays a critical role in the fight against the virus and are evaluating new OSHA guidelines to determine what adjustments need to be made to our current vaccination policy as we continue to prioritize the safety of the vaccine. our employees. “
She added, “We will be reviewing the OSHA guidelines and their application with union leaders.”
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GE Appliances – a Louisville-based company with more than 7,100 salaried and hourly employees at its Appliance Park facility – is preparing to comply and developing its implementation strategy, said company spokesperson Julie Wood.
“GE Appliances complies with all applicable workplace safety requirements,” Wood told the Courier Journal Thursday. “We review the standard and determine our implementation plan.
LG&E and KU, a Louisville-based utility company with 3,600 employees, “are reviewing the OSHA interim standard and preparing to comply with the guidelines,” said company spokesperson Chris Whelan.
“Providing energy safely and reliably is at the heart of our mission at LG&E and KU,” said Whelan. “Throughout the pandemic, we have taken important steps to protect our employees and the public, to maintain business continuity and to maintain the reliability of our customers when they need it most. “
He added: “We continue to encourage our employees to protect themselves and their families by getting vaccinated.”
At public schools in Jefferson County, which is Kentucky’s largest public school district and has approximately 18,000 full-time and permanent part-time employees, all employees had to either be vaccinated or agree to undergo regular testing beforehand. November 1.
The county school board voted 6-1 in September to implement the vaccine and testing requirement.
It is not known how many employees chose to receive the vaccine compared to those who chose weekly testing. The Courier Journal submitted a request for open records to the district for this data but did not receive a response.
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Louisville’s hospital system, Norton Healthcare, announced in August that its approximately 17,000 employees were due to receive their first injection by September 15.
Norton spokeswoman Maggie Roetker previously told the Courier Journal that she was “over 99% compliant” and that “those who did not comply received a notice of termination, effective October 1 “.
Sarah Davasher-Wisdom, president and CEO of Greater Louisville Inc., the Louisville area chamber of commerce, said that since the announcement of the federal vaccine and testing mandate, the organization has been in “constant communication with businesses affected in our region “.
“While many support the impending federal demands, concerns remain about their potential implications on already severe talent shortages,” Davasher-Wisdom said. “We appreciate OSHA’s policy advice on not placing the burden of paying for tests on employers, and we continue to advocate for these requirements to be as light as possible for businesses. “
She added that GLI “recognizes that widespread immunization of our entire community is essential to the health of our workforce and the continued growth of our economy.”