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Under new federal rules, Maine public sector employees must be vaccinated or tested regularly for COVID-19

Employees in the public sector (i.e. school staff, state and local government workers, etc.) will be required to be vaccinated or be tested regularly.

AUGUSTA, Maine — UPDATE: A Department of Labor spokesperson said Tuesday, Oct. 5, in an e-mail:

"OSHA is developing a rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work. OSHA will issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to implement this requirement. This requirement will impact over 80 million workers in private sector businesses with 100+ employees. The agency is developing a rule that will require employers with more than 100 employees to provide paid time off for the time it takes for workers to get vaccinated or to recover if they are under the weather post-vaccination. This requirement will be implemented through the ETS. The ETS will apply to public sector state and local government workers, including educators and school staff, in the 26 states and two territories with a state OSHA plan."

Essentially, the DOL is working on a rule that would require employers to pay their employees for the time to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and for any time to recover if they feel sick following the shot.

Also, because Maine has a "state OSHA plan," the 100 employee threshold applies to Maine public school staff and educators.

The Maine Department of Labor (DOL) said the federal government informed them that the Biden administration’s vaccine and testing requirement will apply to public sector employers in Maine, including state, county, and local governments, and public school systems.

Last week, President Biden announced that 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 said they will issue an Emergency Temporary Standard to implement this requirement.

The Maine DOL sought clarification from OSHA about the rule’s applicability to public employers because, under longstanding Maine 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.

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

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.

OSHA confirmed with the Maine DOL 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.

Maine Community College System President David Daigler gave the following statement in a press release in response to the news:

“Today’s announcement from the Department of Labor confirms the need for requiring clear vaccine protocols such as the one already in place at Maine’s community colleges. The MCCS protocol is a critical part of a broader effort to keep our community as safe as possible. It is, simply put, the right thing to do,” MCCS President David Daigler said Friday.

Watch NCM's full interview with Maine Education Association President Grace Leavitt below.