HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- One hundred million Americans will soon have to get the COVID-19 vaccine, or they'll have to test for the virus weekly. But the rule is confusing to some employers.
WHAT IS THE NEW FEDERAL COVID-19 VACCINATION RULE?
Starting Jan. 4, employees that work in a business with more than 100 workers will have to either be vaccinated or get tested weekly. This is a new rule from the federal government, and it will be enforced by OSHA.
SEE MORE: Most US employees must get shot or test weekly for COVID by Jan. 4
If you work for a company with multiple locations, and your spot doesn't have 100 employees, but the company overall does, this new rule still applies to you. The are some exemptions. If you fall under one of them, labor attorney David Quan said you should talk with your employer as soon as possible.
"If you have a sincerely held religious belief, or a pre-existing condition with a disability and can't take the vaccine, or somehow it's a health issue like that, I would bring those issues up to my HR representative and start that dialog," Quan explained.
WHO PAYS FOR THE WEEKLY TESTING?
Quan said the new rules allow for employers to be off the hook. This means employees would be responsible for the costs of weekly testing.
Still, not all employers think that's a good idea.
At Exclusive Furniture, CEO Sam Zavary worries the cost will be too much, and it might encourage employees to go elsewhere.
"Some employees might say, 'You know what? I might as well go work for a company that has 80, 50 or a small company. That way, I don't have to get vaccinated,'" Zavary said. "That way, no one is going to ask me what my rights are or what my rights are not."
I WORK REMOTELY, DOES THAT MEAN I HAVE TO FOLLOW THE RULES TOO?
Quan said remote workers count toward the overall number for the company. However, if someone works remotely off-site, they aren't required to follow the rule.
But, if that person goes into the office once a week, they would be required to follow the rule.
There are exemptions for workers who never go inside an office.
Quan said those who work completely outdoors, including construction or landscaping, may not have to follow the rule. This also applies to truck drivers who work alone.
WHO WILL ENFORCE THE RULE?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, is in charge of enforcement. The penalty per violation is about $14,000.
This new rules impact about 100 million Americans. That kind of number can seem daunting for an agency to enforce.
Quan said it won't just be the agency, but workers can also alert them if their employer isn't following the new rule.
"OSHA already has an enforcement division, and having spoken to some folks at OSHA, I know that they're ramping up to recognizing to have increased enforcement efforts," Quan explained. "OSHA has also made clear in its comments today that they intend to prioritize enforcement of these regulations. And then of course, there's also the chance that an individual employee will actually be the person that brings these issues to the attention of the government. There will probably be an increase of what we call employer complaints in this situation."
WHAT ABOUT GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT'S ORDER BLOCKING COMPANIES FROM ASKING FOR COVID-19 VACCINATION PROOF?
In October, Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order banning companies from being allowed to ask for COVID-19 vaccination proof. On Thursday, the Texas attorney general said he plans to sue the federal government over the new rule.
RELATED: Texas bill to block COVID vaccine mandates for employers stalls in Senate due to rally against it
Quan believes the federal rule will supersede the state's order. As far as litigation, it could last for months.
His advice to employers and workers is to prepare as if they're going to have to follow the new rule.
The agency plans to hold virtual meetings to share information with employers and workers over the coming weeks. It's information that Savary said he needs.
"Who's paying for the test? How are you going to check it? What happens? How much are the fines? Those are just a lot of questions that I want to ask and I want to answer some," Savary said. "Then what is Governor Abbott is going to do? Because he has vowed saying that, if companies asked, he will prosecute them or they will come after them. So I don't want the government be mad at us either, because we'd be following a federal mandate."
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What you need to know about the new federal COVID-19 vaccine rules
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