Big U.S. employers are taking a variety of approaches when it comes to requiring workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as courts litigate the status of the Biden administration's mandates on employers to have an inoculated workforce.
Some businesses have imposed vaccine mandates for workers while others are denying unvaccinated workers pandemic-related paid leave or requiring them to pay health plan surcharges. Meanwhile, some employers ended their vaccine requirements for employees after federal courts blocked two rules issued by the federal government: one requiring businesses with at least 100 employees to ensure workers are vaccinated or wear masks and undergo weekly COVID-19 testing, and another requiring a similar mandate for federal contractors.
Alert: On Dec. 17, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the stay on the federal government's vaccine-or-testing rule, which will require businesses with at least 100 employees to ensure workers are vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing in 2022. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to have the final say on whether the administration's rule takes effect.
A late-November survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 75 percent of employers are not likely to require vaccines or testing if the Biden administration's mandate is permanently struck down by the courts.
SHRM Online has gathered the following articles on what big employers are doing or would do if the vaccine mandate is permanently struck down.
Boeing Drops Vaccine Mandate for U.S. Workers
Aerospace firm Boeing said it was dropping a policy requiring all U.S.-based employees to be vaccinated, citing the federal district court ruling that had blocked the administration's immunization mandate for federal contractors and subcontractors. Ongoing legal battles led by Republican attorneys general are challenging President Biden's federal vaccine mandates, leaving companies and workers caught in the middle.
Kroger Ends Paid Leave for Unvaccinated Workers, Adds Surcharge
Supermarket chain Kroger will end paid pandemic-related emergency leave for unvaccinated employees who contract COVID-19 and will require some unvaccinated employees on the company's health care plan to pay a $50 monthly surcharge.
The company, which employs around 465,000 U.S. workers, is one of the largest private employers to institute stricter COVID-19 rules for unvaccinated employees without outright requiring the vaccine. It will continue to offer a one-time $100 bonus to workers who get fully vaccinated.
The monthly $50 surcharge goes into effect Jan. 1 and applies to salaried associates enrolled in a company health plan. The extra expense would cost each affected employee $600 per year.
(The Hill) and (USA Today)
Surcharge for Unvaccinated Employees Challenged
A law enforcement union has filed a lawsuit challenging a $45 health insurance surcharge imposed each pay period on Pima County, Ariz., employees who haven't been vaccinated against the coronavirus and haven't been granted exemptions.
The Arizona Conference of Police and Sheriffs said in its lawsuit that unvaccinated county employees must confront whether to continue shouldering the costs or get vaccinated, despite personal or medical concerns. The surcharge, which took effect on Nov. 1, would cost each unvaccinated employee close to $1,200 per year.
More Companies Suspended Vaccine Mandates
A growing number of big companies, including General Electric and Amtrak, temporarily suspended mandates that require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 after court rulings had paused such requirements from the Biden administration for private-sector employers and for health care workers (in roughly half the states) and federal contractors, leaving the decision about whether to require vaccinations up to employers.
Amtrak announced it was temporarily suspending its employee mandate following the nationwide injunction against the vaccine requirement for federal contractors. The reversal would enable Amtrak to run normally next month, instead of cutting service as it had projected, the rail service said.
Appeals Court Declines to Block United Airlines Vaccine Mandate
A divided panel of the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has rebuffed a request by six employees to block United Airlines from enforcing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for workers that imposes unpaid leave on those who are granted religious or medical exceptions.
United Airlines was the first major air carrier to issue a vaccine requirement, and others followed. United has granted around 2,000 religious and medical exemptions to employees, including pilots, flight attendants and customer service agents.