Early in the vaccination campaign, American companies tried to promote COVID-19 immunization to their employees by offering incentives, such as bonuses or days off. In recent weeks they have switched to a more aggressive strategy in which workers can face layoffs if they don’t get vaccinated before returning to the office, as was the case with three CNN employees who were fired for lying about their guidelines.
The company had announced that it would have “zero tolerance” towards the unvaccinated and that only the vaccinated could return to the offices. The chain had been based on a trust system, so it was not mandatory to present the vaccination card, but this has changed after discovering that these three employees had returned to the office without being immunized.
The television network is not an isolated case. United Airlines will ask its more than 60,000 employees in the United States to be immunized no later than October 25, or their jobs will be in jeopardy. Another example is the officials to whom the Government – which is the largest employer in the country with more than four million workers – has given two options to keep their jobs: get vaccinated against the coronavirus or undergo COVID tests -19 weekly.
Other companies, such as Uber or Walmart, have opted for a hybrid format in which the vaccine is mandatory for those who work from the office, but not for those who do it in front of the public. According to professor at the University of Texas School of Law, Michael Golden, this is due, in the case of the supermarket chain, due to fear of losing customers and, in the case of Uber, due to fear of losing employees.
“I think that Walmart’s decision not to require the vaccine from its workers in stores, which is a very large percentage, is because buyers could oppose this requirement,” explains the specialist in employment discrimination and employment law. Despite the fact that doses are available for the entire adolescent and adult population, only slightly more than 50% of the population over 12 years of age has received the full regimen.
With regard to not forcing employees to be vaccinated for fear that people will decide to leave work, Golden comments that employment in the United States is in a “peculiar situation”, since, despite the unemployment data due to the pandemic , many people have become more selective. “Especially in retail and construction, but this is also seen in restaurants and bars. So it is normal to think that Uber wants to have a large fleet of drivers available.”
The decision rests with the States
The CEO of Uber, a company that has been involved from the beginning in the country’s vaccination campaign by offering free trips for those to be immunizedHe pointed out in an interview for CNBC that the application of a mandate for the vaccine must come from the Government and not from the companies.
The president of the United States, Joe Biden, would not hesitate to implement the measure if he could, but in this case the management of health obligations depends on the states.
For that reason, completely different measures are seen depending, above all, if the territory is Democratic or Republican. California and New York, areas led by Democrats, also gave government employees the option to get vaccinated or to undergo weekly COVID-19 tests. In addition, starting in September, New York will require both clients and workers in gyms, restaurants, bars and public spaces a proof of vaccination to gain access to shops.
Meanwhile, in the states of Florida and Texas their Republican governors have banned local districts from requiring masks in schools.
Not only could states not ask for the vaccine, but also prohibit companies that are established in that state from requiring them from their employees, something that has not yet happened so far.
Google -which was the first big tech company in asking your employees to get vaccinated– It’s a good example. This company is based in California, but also has a large office in Texas. “It would be a great example of a company that might be forced to have slightly different rules depending on where employees are located,” says Golden.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency that enforces laws against discrimination in the workplace, released guidance in May indicating that employers could force their workers to comply. vaccinated as long as this measure did not interfere with the civil rights and disability status of workers. Meanwhile, employees can oppose the measure if they justify that the injection interferes with their religion, health or disability.
However, the professor explains that, in general, none of the country’s companies would find it difficult to fire someone for having COVID or not being vaccinated, because with the exception of Montana, in the rest of 49 states, employers are not required to to explain why an employee is being laid off. “This happens even in California, which has more protections for workers.”