How the Biden administration’s sweeping vaccine mandate impacts the Austin area

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — In the Austin area, a recently-issued vaccine mandate by President Joe Biden impacts more than 10,000 federal employees, as well as hundreds of private companies.

The sweeping mandate states that all employers with 100+ employees must either mandate COVID-19 vaccines or test weekly. The mandate affects as many as 100 million Americans.

“We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” Biden said during a briefing on Thursday.

The requirement will be enacted through a forthcoming rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that carries penalties of $14,000 per violation, an administration official said

KXAN asked local experts how aggressively this new mandate will be enforced.

Employment law attorney Austin Kaplan said OSHA has never had nor used power like this.

Kaplan says OSHA won’t have the resources to go after all violators.

“I wouldn’t be surprised [if] OSHA, you know, tried to find some particular violators early on to make the point that we are going to go after this thing and try to aggressively enforce it,” said Kaplan.

Kaplan says while some may challenge the order on grounds of federal overreach, he believes it will be an uphill battle and that the Department of Labor has a lot of leeway governing workplace health and safety.

“I think the shot has been fired. And if you’re a large employer, it’s time to take a look at your safety protocols and make sure that you’re doing everything you can to keep your workplace safe,” said Kaplan.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott called Biden’s new orders an assault on private business.

He tweeted that he has issued an executive order protecting Texans’ right to choose whether or not they get the vaccine.

Abbott has added the issue to the special session agenda.

He says Texas is already working to halt “this power grab.”

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