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Nadler, Padilla Urge Labor Department, Biden Administration to Improve Access to Paid Time Off for Vaccinations

Letter comes as voluntary tax credits to expire today, making it harder for businesses to offer paid time off

Washington, D.C. —  Today, Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) led their colleagues in a letter to Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Martin Walsh and White House COVID-⁠19 Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients, urging them to work with Congress, companies, and governments to ensure that employees are offered pay for any time off needed to get vaccinated and recover from any side-effects of vaccination. Voluntary payroll tax credits for employers with fewer than 500 employees will expire today, September 30, 2021, effectively making it harder for businesses to offer paid time off for employees seeking their first vaccinations or vaccine booster shots.

As the Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to infect Americans across the country, it is more important than ever to remove barriers to vaccination in order to put the pandemic behind us. Experts have suggested that one of the most effective incentives for vaccination is paid time off. In their letter, the Senators urge the administration do everything it can to ensure employers offer paid leave for working people in this country to get vaccinated.

“Millions of hourly shift workers are financially unable to take unpaid time off for vaccination and recovery. These workers are disproportionately from low-income, minority, and immigrant communities. According to a recent survey, nearly 20% of workers have not been vaccinated because they are afraid of missing work or are too busy.” said the lawmakers. “In June, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 65% of workers were encouraged by their employer to get a COVID-19 vaccine, but only 50% received paid time off to get the shot or recover from side effects. Workers in the group that received paid time off were more likely to be vaccinated.”

“We urge the Department of Labor (DOL) to identify the parts of federal law for which DOL has enforcement authority, if any, that would provide for time off for a COVID-19 vaccination. In the upcoming OSHA ETS, we ask that you clarify details on the requirement for paid time off to be given for an employee to receive the vaccine and to recover from any side effects,” the lawmakers continued.

In addition to Senator Padilla and Representative Nadler, the letter was signed by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Rep. Jesús G. "Chuy" García (D-IL), Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI), Rep. John B. Larson (D-CT), Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr. (D-VA), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Rep. Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D. (D-NY), Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-RI), Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Rep. Kaiali'i Kahele (D-HI), and Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI).

Full text of the letter is available HERE and below:

Dear Secretary Walsh and Mr. Zients,

As the Biden Administration’s COVID-19 task force executes its comprehensive national strategy to combat COVID-19, we write to urge you to continue to work with Congress, private companies, states, territories, Indian Tribes, and other jurisdictions to ensure that employees are offered full pay for any time off needed to get vaccinated, and we ask that you respond by identifying any statutory changes necessary to help you meet this goal.

Millions of hourly shift workers are financially unable to take unpaid time off for vaccination and recovery. These workers are disproportionately from low-income, minority, and immigrant communities. According to a recent survey, nearly 20% of workers have not been vaccinated because they are afraid of missing work or are too busy. That proportion increased to 26% for Black workers and 40% for Hispanic workers. In June, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 65% of workers were encouraged by their employer to get a COVID-19 vaccine, but only 50% received paid time off to get the shot or recover from side effects. Workers in the group that received paid time off were more likely to be vaccinated.

As infections with the Delta variant rise across the country, it is more important than ever for the administration to use its full authority to increase our nation’s COVID-19 vaccination rate and put the pandemic behind us. Likewise, it is vital that the federal government continues to support paid leave for working people in this country to get vaccinated and recover from any after-effects of vaccination. While we are grateful that President Biden has called on all employers to provide paid time off for employees to get vaccinated, more must be done.

We urge the Department of Labor (DOL) to identify the parts of federal law for which DOL has enforcement authority, if any, that would provide for time off for a COVID-19 vaccination. In the upcoming OSHA ETS, we ask that you clarify details on the requirement for paid time off to be given for an employee to receive the vaccine and to recover from any side effects. Finally, we ask that you report back on what action from Congress would be necessary to help further these goals.

We look forward to working together to combat the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you in advance for your attention to this important matter, and we look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

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