Companies keep mum as vaccine mandate goes to Supreme Court

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Companies that will be hit by the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-testing requirement for workers remain on edge while the Supreme Court considers whether the rule can be enforced

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NEW YORK — Companies that would be affected by the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test requirement for workers remain largely on edge, while the Supreme Court remains skeptical about whether the rule can be enforced.

The requirement, which would apply to companies with 100 or more employees, has faced multiple court challenges and was upheld by a three-judge panel with the US Court of Appeals last month. Since then, one major company — Starbucks — has announced its own vaccine mandate. It said in December that all US workers must be fully vaccinated by February 9 or face a weekly COVID testing requirement.

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Several companies, including Lowes and Target, have publicly said they will comply with any federal vaccine mandates and were taking steps to meet the mandates, but have stopped short of coming out with their own requirement. General Motors said on Friday that it “stands strongly in support” of COVID-19 vaccination in an e-mail to the Associated Press, and that it was reviewing the rules “with a number of internal and external stakeholders” and ensuring was determining the course of action we should take to do so. Company-wide understanding and compliance.”

The arguments before the Supreme Court come as companies of all stripes are grappling with labor shortages fueled by the rapid spread of the highly contagious Omicron version of COVID-19. Business groups such as the National Federation of Independent Business and the National Retail Federation have called the requirements difficult and could hinder companies’ ability to hire workers.

Jeff Levine-Sherz, population health leader at consulting firm Willis Towers Watson, says many companies are hesitant to take any action because court challenges have created a lot of uncertainty. He also pointed out that 14 states have enacted legislation that limits employer vaccine mandates. This makes it difficult for companies operating in different states to have a uniform plan, he said.

Levin-Scherz also noted that some companies may not need to have their own vaccine mandates because nearly everyone is vaccinated; Others in more rural states usually have large percentages of uneducated workers and require a great deal of effort.

A survey of more than 500 US companies conducted by Willis Towers Watson from November 12 to November 18 showed that more than half of all respondents either need or plan to have a COVID-19 vaccination. This includes 18% who now need vaccination; 32% who plan to require vaccination only when the Biden rule is in effect; and 7% who plan to make them mandatory regardless of the status of the regulations.

The survey also showed that very few employers with vaccination requirements – 3% – have reported a spike in resignations, although almost 1 in 3 of those planning mandates are very concerned that it will force employees to leave their companies. can contribute. On the other hand, nearly half of the employers surveyed believe the vaccine mandate can help recruit and retain employees.

In August, United Airlines became the first major airline to require employees to be vaccinated or face termination. Others followed in the fall, but stopped or left with threats to shoot anyone who didn’t take the shot.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines said Friday it awaits a final decision on legal challenges and in the meantime will not implement the Biden administration’s January 4 deadline to vaccinate all federal contractors. The company notes that 93% of its employees have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or have been provided with housing.

Walmart, the country’s largest retailer, is requiring that all employees at its headquarters, as well as its managers who travel within the US, be vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 4, but that includes up-front- Line workers have not been included, of whom the company said their numbers are small. Vaccination rate compared to management. Discounter didn’t provide any details about how it’s taking steps to meet the federal mandate.

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Writer David Koenig of Airlines in Dallas contributed to this report.

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