On the heels of yesterday’s post in which I discussed the National Football League’s crackdown on COVID-19 vaccines and safety protocols, I bring you news today of vaccine mandates from the Department of Veteran Affairs, State of California, and New York City.
New York City, the Department of Veteran Affairs and the state of California announced plans Monday to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for many of their employees, a shift in how the country is seemingly dealing with vaccine hesitancy after months of campaigning to the public then offering money and prizes when vaccination levels dipped.
In New York and California, the mandate comes with the option of wearing a mask and receiving testing at least once a week if a worker does not want to be vaccinated. The VA did not offer another option for its medical employees.
Presumably, the VA will provide similar exceptions for employees with disabilities, religious objections, and pregnant women.
The article notes that NYC workers have until mid-September to get vaccinated. The deadline in California is August 2.
It seems then that we have a trend of notable employers pivoting away from carrots to sticks to force COVID-19 vaccinations. Yesterday, I said that employers need to push employees towards vaccinations — but didn’t go so far as to recommend a mandate. I merely noted that silence is not an option, and employers should take a more active role.
Today, I want to go a step further.
I assume that most of you have already communicated to employees the importance of getting vaccinated. If you haven’t done so already, my words will likely fall on deaf ears. However, if you have previously encouraged vaccinations and feel that your returns are diminishing, consider a new approach.
Perhaps it may be time to trade in the carrot for the stick.
I’m not saying that you should discipline or fire an unvaccinated employee who gets COVID-19. But, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t either. Or perhaps, as a commenter noted on a LinkedIn discussion about yesterday’s NFL post, provide additional PTO for “breakthrough” COVID-19 cases while requiring the unvaccinated to tap their existing bank of PTO. Or require them to take unpaid leave.
(Please consult with outside employment counsel on any of these approaches as your mileage may vary.)
Above all, now is not the time to relax. If we are to get ahead of the Delta variant, employers must take a renewed active role in the fight.