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Saturday, November 27, 2021
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SSA Blog

©2021 by the Self Storage Association (SSA). SSA and SSA Magazine are trademarks of the Self Storage Association, Inc. Opinions expressed by authors and other contributors do not necessarily reflect those of the SSA, publisher or editors, nor do they represent the policy or positions of the SSA. Information contained within articles should not be construed as the primary basis for legal or investment decisions.


Big Companies Face Vaccines or Testing

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Big Companies Face Vaccines or Testing

Self storage’s largest operators and vendors are preparing for their biggest role fighting COVID-19 since they installed plexiglass barriers in offices and ramped up online rentals.


New rules published by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration aim to compel the country’s largest employers to mandate vaccines for their workforces over 100 employees. New rules published by OSHA impose a “soft” mandate for employers with more than 100 employees to be vaccinated. Those who do not must test negative for the virus weekly and wear a face covering at work. Exemptions from the vaccination-or-testing mandate apply to employees who work from home or work outdoors exclusively or do not interact with other employees or customers.


Large employers have been awaiting further details about their role since President Biden announced the forthcoming mandates in September as the delta variant overwhelmed hospitals in parts of the country. Major employers followed suit, with airlines United, American, Alaska and JetBlue requiring employees to be vaccinated. Amtrak, Citigroup and Google are just some of the major employers that had already mandated the vaccine.


While some large self storage operators said they do not prefer a mandate, at least with the published OSHA rules they now have details from which to work.


“We are still trying to solidify our plan and now have a hard deadline to do so,” said Marc Smith, president of Personal Mini Storage in Orlando, Florida. “While about 70% of our team is vaccinated, we still have a formidable challenge to get to 100%.”


In early August, Columbia, Missouri-based StorageMart Self Storage stepped forward to challenge the industry to encourage the industry’s workforce to be vaccinated. CEO Cris Burnam said StorageMart would pay a $100 cash bonus to all US employees who were fully vaccinated by October 31, and he rallied other operators to do the same.


By early October, StorageMart’s incentive had boosted vaccination rates among employees by 10%. Overall, 72% of StorageMart’s corporate office team were vaccinated, and 45% of field staff were vaccinated. 


Company spokespersons Sarah Little with StorageMart and McKall Morris with Extra Space Storage said leadership and HR departments were reviewing the new rules. 


Now, large employers must move beyond incentives and require testing of those who choose not to receive a vaccine. The new rules require large employers to provide paid time for employees to receive the vaccine. OSHA’s regulations do not require employers to pay for any costs associated with testing, though employer payment may be required by other laws, regulations or collective bargaining agreements. Joe Doherty, senior vice president and chief legal and legislative officer for the Self Storage Association, said larger employers have much to consider with the new rules.


“This is going to be a compliance nightmare for some employers,” Doherty said. “This mandate is problematic and is going to get hung up in litigation. We may never see it go into effect.”


Indeed, on November 12, a federal appeals court covering Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi temporarily stopped the ETS from taking effect while the court considers the merits of the challengers’ arguments. The court held that the challengers are likely to prevail and called the ETS “a one-size fits-all sledgehammer that makes hardly any attempt to account for differences in workplaces . . .”  


As a result, OSHA announced it has suspended implementation and enforcement of the ETS pending future developments in the litigation. On November 16, 2021, the lawsuit was transferred to another federal appeals court that will consider the merits of the pending legal challenges. How the court will ultimately rule is presently unknown.


Doherty said state-level requirements complicate the federal regulations. In California, for example, employers must compensate employees for all time spent working and for any work-related expenses that are incurred. Doherty said multi-state employers may choose to simply compensate employees for testing in all states rather than undertake the administrative burden of determining who must be compensated.


Some 22 states have their own state-level OSHA offices that control workplace safety, adding inconsistency to compliance. Other states have banned vaccine mandates.


Claiming a religious exemption to the vaccine matters less with the new regulations, Doherty said, because unvaccinated employees will still have to be tested.


For an in-depth analysis of the ETS, answers to frequently asked questions, and sample policies, storage operators and vendors are encouraged to review these resources from the SSA here. SSA will provide updates on the status of the ETS as they develop.





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