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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updated its guidelines to state that U.S. employers could require workers who physically enter a workplace to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Federal laws also allow employers to offer incentives to workers who voluntarily take the vaccine. The EEOC says, however, that federal laws may require employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” for workers who, because of a disability or a religious belief, aren’t vaccinated. Reasonable accommodations, per the EEOC, include allowing an unvaccinated employee — for one of those two reasons — to telework or work in person with a mask.
Pretty straightforward so far. Here’s where the fight begins:
While federal laws say employers can require workers to receive the COVID vaccine, existing obstacles indicate that most will hesitate to do so.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the matter remains up to state and other local laws. “Whether an employer may require or mandate COVID-19 vaccination is a matter of state or other applicable law,” the CDC says. Presumably, a major business allowing only vaccinated workers would cause a battle in red states across the country.
Furthermore, employers already say they are struggling to fill open positions as prospective employees choose to stay home for one reason or another. How many businesses that are actively trying to fill openings would give people another reason to say no?
There’s even a gray area for businesses offering their employees vaccine incentives. The commission says the incentives must not be “coercive,” a term experts view as subjective.
“What is ‘coercive’ is unclear because, just as with anything else, one person’s view of what is a coercive incentive is not the same as another person’s,” said New York-based attorney Helen Rella.
“You might find an incentive of $100 coercive and another person might find an incentive of $10,000 coercive. That’s where the door is left open [where] we don’t have the detailed guidance we were hoping to receive.”
How open is that door? Dollar General, which offers four extra hours of pay to vaccinated employees, could soon find out. As could Bolthouse Farms, which intends to pay full-time, vaccinated workers $500.
I’m at least open to a discussion about incentives. However, states should not allow large businesses to mandate that all their workers return fully vaccinated.
Those who favor a mandate argue that an unvaccinated employee “endangers” co-workers and customers who are trying to avoid the virus. At one point, that may have been true. That’s not the case anymore, though.
More than half of adult Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The vaccine is available to all Americans who want it, except for select groups. To say an employee must receive the vaccine to protect the young (who are at a very small risk) and those who don’t want the vaccine is unreasonable.
Because of their youth and overall health, a good number of the unvaccinated are not vulnerable to severe symptoms, hospitalization or death from COVID. A business that ignores this reality and plans to mandate COVID vaccines furthers the viewpoint that we can’t reach normalcy until each living person’s chances of contracting the virus is almost zero.
All that said, it takes just one company to roll the ball and mandate the vaccine. Once one major company says its workers must receive it, others will follow, as they always do. If you are a fan of loopholes, twisted words, and science (whatever that means anymore), buckle up for this battle.