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Maine Department of Labor can impose stricter rules than OSHA's vaccinate, test, mask mandate

A Maine DOL spokesperson said the COVID vaccine mandate from the Biden Administration is the minimum standard, and Maine can impose stricter rules.

PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine Department of Labor's Board of Occupational Safety and Health will vote on Dec. 2 on how to adopt the Emergency Temporary Standard that requires people who work at places with 100 or more workers to either get the COVID-19 vaccine or get tested weekly and wear a mask at work.

While the federal rules include a religious exemption for health care workers, Maine's mandate does not. A Maine Department of Labor spokesperson said the state, under what is called a "state plan," implements the OSHA rules as "minimum standards," and that the state can make stricter rules, but not more lenient ones.

In the 26 states and two territories with OSHA State Plans, the ETS will also cover public sector workers employed by state and local governments, including educators and school staff.

"The challenge for employers is that they are charged with enforcing this rule while there is this clamor of lawsuits, litigation and no one could safely tell you that this rule will be enforced by the courts in the long term," Peter Lowe, an employment lawyer for Brann & Isaacson said. "That’s really hard to predict. These rules don’t have a great track record of being upheld by courts."

The rule requires employers to give workers paid time off to get the vaccine, and for any sick time needed to recover from the shot.

The emergency temporary standard does not require employers to pay for testing. Employers may be required to pay for testing to comply with other laws, regulations, collective bargaining agreements or other collectively negotiated agreements. Employers are also not required to pay for face coverings. 

Maine's BOSH will vote on whether to require employers in the state to pay for testing or face coverings.

Employers must comply with most requirements within 30 days of publication and with testing requirements within 60 days of publication. 

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