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'Playing hardball': Biden plans massive new fines for businesses violating vax mandate: watchdog

Under $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, businesses not complying with Biden OSHA vaccine mandate would be subject to fines ranging from $70,000 to $700,000, according to OpenTheBooks.com.

Updated: October 11, 2021 - 11:17pm

Tucked inside the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill that passed out of the House Budget Committee are exorbitant new fines — ranging from $70,000 to $700,000 — that would apply to companies defying President Joe Biden's COVID vaccine mandate, alleges Adam Andrzejewski, CEO/founder of OpenTheBooks.com. 

If the provisions of the bill are implemented, the fines could bankrupt all non-compliant companies, warns the government spending watchdog.

"Buried on page 168 of the House Democrats' 2,465-page mega bill is a tenfold increase in fines for employers that 'willfully,' 'repeatedly,' or even seriously violate a section of labor law that deals with hazards, death, or serious physical harm to their employees," Andrzejewski writes in Forbes.

Last month, Biden announced by executive fiat that all private-sector businesses with 100 or more employees must comply with his most recent vaccine mandate, or pay a potential fine of $14,000 per violation. The order would impact more than 80 million Americans.

Open The Books argues violators would be subject to the drastically steeper new fines in the budget reconciliation bill.

According to the bill markup, Section 21004 of the OSHA Act of 1970 would be amended to increase fines in the Adjustment of Civil Monetary Penalties section. The changes made by the Democrat-controlled committee would increase the maximum penalty to $700,000 for willful and repeat violations; increase the minimum penalty to $50,000 for willful violations; and increase the maximum penalty for both serious and failure-to-abate violations to $70,000.

A senior House Democratic aide denied the stiffened penalties are targeted specifically at vaccine mandate non-compliance. Noting the fines fall under the jurisdiction of the House Committee on Education and Labor, the aide argued the provisions are related to labor law enforcement more broadly.

The fines were "marked up in committee and are not explicitly related to vaccines — just generally increase the level of fines that OSHA is able to levy when an employer is in violation," the Democratic aide told Just The News.

The bill markup also amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to increase penalties and fines. It increases maximum civil penalties to: 

  • $132,270 for child labor violations;
  • $601,150 for child labor violations that cause the death or serious injury of an employee under the age of 18;
  • $20,740 for willful or repeated minimum wage or overtime violations;
  • $11,620 for tip violations. 

It also amends the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act of 1983 to increase the maximum civil penalty for violations of the law to $25,790.

Andrzejewski remains skeptical. "The push to increase the fines up to $700,000 per willful and repeated violation," he countered, "was the anticipated emergency rule that OSHA will publish in the Federal Register allowing them jurisdiction to enforce Biden's vax mandate on private companies. Period."

The House aide "doesn't deny that the fines would be levied as the enforcement mechanism of the president's vax mandate," he added. "That's because Biden and the Democrats are playing hardball. Comply or face bankruptcy."

Just The News contacted OSHA to provide clarification on whether enforcement of new fine ceilings will be applied to vax violators, but did not receive a response.

The changes come after Biden issued an ominous warning to the millions of Americans who refuse to get the COVID jabs. "We've been patient," said the president. "But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us." 

In June, prior to Biden's executive order last month, OSHA published an emergency rule in the Federal Register stating it would have jurisdiction over COVID safety enforcement. Invoking the obscure Emergency Temporary Standard provision, the agency claimed the authority to enforce the mandate and impose fines, OpenTheBooks explains. The ETS has been used only 10 times in the agency's 50-year history, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

Worse, argues the religious liberty legal aid nonprofit Liberty Counsel, the federal government would be imposing draconian fines on companies for not complying with an illegal mandate. 

Technically, Liberty Counsel contends, the COVID shots are available only under Emergency Use Authorization, which under federal law requires that they only be administered on a voluntarily basis. 

"The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has done a bait and switch by announcing it approved its 'first COVID-19 vaccine' in order to push the 'vaccine' mandates and protect the Pfizer pharmaceutical company from legal liability," Liberty Counsel said in August. "However, there is currently no fully licensed COVID shot on the United States market." 

Even if a fully licensed vaccine was available, it still couldn't be mandatory, argues Liberty Counsel, because Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act allows for religious exceptions.

"Employees and employers have constitutional protections against this lawless Biden mandate," the organization's founder and chairman Mat Staver says, adding that Liberty Counsel will "challenge his lawless executive order."

In response to threats of lawsuits or Republican governors who have challenged the mandate, Biden said: "Have at it. We're playing for real here. This isn't a game."

But 27 governors or attorneys general have vowed to fight it, including Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has sparred with Biden over mask mandates and vaccine passports.

"When you have a president like Biden issuing unconstitutional edicts against the American people, we have a responsibility to stand up for the Constitution and to fight back, and we are doing that in the state of Florida," DeSantis said. "This is a president who has acknowledged in the past he does not have the authority to force this on anybody, and this order would result potentially in millions of Americans losing their jobs."

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