For many Houston construction companies, COVID-19 has meant the end, or near end, of business as usual. Both for smaller companies, whose projects became far and few between during the height of the pandemic, and larger companies, who faced major setbacks with federal and state infrastructure contracts.
However, recent federal vaccine mandates may very well change the course of things for construction companies across Houston, and the entire U.S.
While mandates have proven effective in other states, they remain controversial for many Texans, causing opposition party leaders to crack down on federal ruling.
Current Federal COVID-19 Vaccination Mandates
In September of 2021, President Joe Biden announced a federal vaccine mandate that would affect nearly 100 million Americans — including private-sector workers, health care workers, and federal contractors.
The expansive plan mandates that all businesses with more than 100 employees will require workers to either test weekly for the virus or to be vaccinated against the virus.
The mandate for vaccinations or weekly testing for all employees of larger companies will be enacted through the upcoming rule presented by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and will carry a penalty of $14,000 per violation.
Companies with more than 100 employees will be required to provide paid time off for employee vaccination.
Texas Pushes Back on Biden’s Mandates
While many companies have already complied with the mandate, Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, strongly objected to the rulings and released two executive orders which prohibit vaccine mandates by any entity (including small businesses) and any government entity from requiring vaccinations from employees or customers, saying this in a Tweet:
"The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective, & our best defense against the virus, but should always remain voluntary & never forced,"
Entities failing to comply with Abbott’s ruling may face fines of up to $1,000.
What Does This Mean for Larger Houston Construction Companies?
Some construction industry trade groups believe that the decision could cause roadblocks for infrastructure projects because workers may leave larger companies in favor of smaller operations not required to mandate vaccines and weekly testing.
A petition filed by the Associated General Contractors of America, the Signatory Wall and Ceiling Contractors Alliance, and the Transportation Builders Association said that the mandate forces workers to either get vaccinated or leave their job.
While each group has said they would like to see more employees vaccinated, the federal ruling is coming when labor shortages are already threatening the industry.
What’s Next for Houston Construction Companies?
Eventually, the Supreme Court will make a ruling that could set the stage for vaccination mandates now and in the future.
For now, construction companies with fewer than 100 employees are exempt from any federal ruling, while companies with over 100 employees remain in limbo as the decision is made to either overturn Biden’s federal mandates or deny Abbott’s executive orders.
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