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State labor commissioner opposed to federal vaccine mandate for companies

Children ages 5-11 began receiving the COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday.
Children ages 5-11 began receiving the COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday.(Source: KAIT-TV)
Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 11:53 AM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WITN) - North Carolina’s labor commissioner is taking issue with the Biden administration’s mandate that companies with over 100 employees require vaccines for employees or get tested weekly.

Josh Dobson sent out a letter Thursday critical of the requirement saying that it will further strain existing resources within the Occupational Safety and Health division while also causing further issues for the state’s workforce struggles.

“With limited time and resources, our OSH compliance officers typically focus on high hazard industries such as construction and manufacturing. Since March 2020, our staff has been overwhelmed by nearly 5,000 COVID-19 complaints, and even more complaints recently related to the June ETS for Healthcare. Adding enforcement of this vaccine ETS to the OSH Division’s workload without any additional federal funding or compliance officers will further impede our ability to achieve our core mission responsibilities. Our compliance officers should be spending their time working with employers to prevent injuries, illnesses and fatalities at construction sites and manufacturing facilities rather than knocking on doors to check an employer’s vaccine records,” Dobson writes.

Dobson said that he strongly encourages all employees and North Carolinians to get a vaccine and believes it is the best way to get the country out of the pandemic.

“Under federal rules, NCDOL must respond to federal OSHA within 15 days regarding the agency’s decision on adoption of the ETS. At this point, we are reviewing the text of the rule and its potential impact on our state’s employers and will ultimately issue a response by the required date. We anticipate legal action at the state and federal level which may impact NCDOL’s next steps. I am considering all possible avenues and will pursue the option that best serves the collective interests of North Carolina employers and workers,” Dobson ends the letter.

Full Memo:

“Earlier today, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), at the direction of President Biden, published an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that requires all employers with 100 or more employees to mandate COVID-19 vaccines or weekly testing for employees. While the N.C. Department of Labor (NCDOL) adopted verbatim federal OSHA’s June COVID-19 ETS for Healthcare, I am concerned about this new vaccine mandate and its potential consequences for North Carolina.

I received my COVID-19 vaccine as soon as I became eligible, and I strongly encourage my employees and all North Carolinians to get the vaccine. I believe the vaccine is the best way to get our country out of this pandemic. I also believe that employers have a responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace for employees. However, the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate is the wrong approach, as it will further strain existing resources within the OSH Division and exacerbate the state’s workforce crisis.

With limited time and resources, our OSH compliance officers typically focus on high hazard industries such as construction and manufacturing. Since March 2020, our staff has been overwhelmed by nearly 5,000 COVID-19 complaints, and even more complaints recently related to the June ETS for Healthcare. Adding enforcement of this vaccine ETS to the OSH Division’s workload without any additional federal funding or compliance officers will further impede our ability to achieve our core mission responsibilities. Our compliance officers should be spending their time working with employers to prevent injuries, illnesses and fatalities at construction sites and manufacturing facilities rather than knocking on doors to check an employer’s vaccine records.

This ETS would also place an unnecessary burden on employers, many of whom are experiencing an unprecedented worker shortage. Many large employers already require vaccines for their employees, and I respect that decision. However, the federal government should not have the power to make that decision for employers and employees. If this ETS survives legal challenge, employers not only risk losing experienced and capable employees, but they also bear the burden of overseeing the testing process for non-vaccinated employees, in addition to paying for time off related to vaccines and recovery from side effects.

Under federal rules, NCDOL must respond to federal OSHA within 15 days regarding the agency’s decision on adoption of the ETS. At this point, we are reviewing the text of the rule and its potential impact on our state’s employers and will ultimately issue a response by the required date. We anticipate legal action at the state and federal level which may impact NCDOL’s next steps. I am considering all possible avenues and will pursue the option that best serves the collective interests of North Carolina employers and workers.”

Josh Dobson

Commissioner of Labor

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