Will Your Boss Require You To Get A Covid-19 Vaccine? New Data Show Employers Are Split

Despite the slower-than-anticipated roll-out, Covid-19 vaccinations may offer the best chance to get America back to work.

But with some Americans willing to wait in line for hours to get vaccinated and 27% saying they don’t intend to get vaccinated, employers face a tricky choice: should they make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued guidance suggesting companies can legally require their employees to get vaccinated, but employers so far appear divided on whether they will.

According to West Monroe’s latest Quarterly Executive Poll released today, employers are almost evenly split on the question of mandating Covid-19 vaccines. Of 150 C-suite executives surveyed, 51% plan to require employees to have a Covid-19 vaccine before returning to work in person; 49% will not require vaccinations. 

Attitudes diverge, however, depending on company location and size, according to Christina Galoozis, a spokesperson for West Monroe. 

Companies based on the East and West coasts are more likely to require the vaccine for on-site employees—59% and 55%, respectively—compared to companies in the Midwest (47%) and the South (43%). MORE FOR YOU CDC, FDA Investigating California Moderna Covid-19 Vaccine Lot With ‘Higher Than Usual’ Allergic ReactionsBillionaire Benjamin De Rothschild, Heir To Storied Banking Fortune, Dies At 57‘They’re Trying To Cancel Me’: MyPillow CEO Says Retailers Have Dropped The Brand Amid His Baseless Voter Fraud Claims

Smaller companies are less likely to require employees to get vaccinated. Among companies with $250 to $500 million in revenues, only 36% lean toward requiring Covid-19 vaccinations compared with 69% of companies with revenues over $3 billion.

Most companies surveyed (81%) plan to have a mix of on-site and at-home workers even when it’s safe to return to work. More than half (52%) these companies say they will require Covid-19 vaccinations. Such hybrid arrangements may make it easier for companies to offer accommodations to employees who can’t get vaccinated for medical or religious reasons. 

The small percentage (9%) of companies that plan for all employees to be on-site when it’s safe are less likely to require vaccination than those planning for a hybrid workforce. Only 31% are leaning toward requiring vaccination.

“We know this is an incredibly challenging question on the minds of employers,” Galoozis said. 

The legal issues are straightforward, especially for private sector, at-will employers—provided vaccination policies are applied fairly.

“Refusal to get a Covid-19 vaccine if your employer is requiring one could get you fired and your employer would be within their legal rights to do so,” said Holly Helstrom, associate at Logos Consulting Group and adjunct instructor at Columbia University.

But employees will be protected if they experience serious adverse side effects from a required vaccine.

“Employees are always going to enjoy some level of protection if they get injured through the action of their employers,” said Brian Weinthal, a Chicago-based employment attorney. 

Weinthal cautions that employers may be at risk for workers’ compensation claims if employees are harmed by the vaccine and the employer has ordered it. He recommends a conservative approach. 

“I think the best advice for employers right now is to strongly encourage, but not mandate a vaccine,” he said. 

Mehdi Maghsoodnia, CEO of at-home saliva Covid-19 testing company 1health, recognizes that some employees will have immunity from the vaccine or from having had Covid-19, but won’t mandate the vaccine for employees who don’t have antibodies. Instead, Maghsoodnia said, “We will continue to test.”

Jamie Coakley, vice president of people at Electric, said the company has been contemplating their vaccine plan and ultimately decided not to require vaccination. Instead, they’ll require on-site employees to complete health screening questions and extend work-from-home options. Careful to avoid discriminatory policies, Electric won’t restrict any employee’s access to the office or ask employees about their vaccination status.

“I’m approaching these conversations openly and honestly with our teams,” Coakley said.  

That’s a good strategy, according to Weinthal. 

“Savvy employers are always trying to get a gage on what their employees are thinking,” he said. “Concerned employers are listening to what their employees are saying.” 

For some businesses, the risk of not requiring vaccination is too great. 

Daniel Schreiber, co-founder and CEO of Lemonade, believes insisting employees take responsible precautions to avoid bringing Covid-19 into the office isn’t an outrage. On the contrary, he said, “The outrage lies in refusing this rudimentary courtesy.”

Schreiber’s priority is to ensure his staff can come to work safely and do their work without worry, which is possible thanks to the vaccines. “All that’s left is for us to respect each other as a society and get the vaccine to put us all at ease,” he said. 

Helstrom recommends letting values guide vaccination decisions. 

“Having clarity on one’s values, whether from the employer or employee perspective, can make the decision easier,” she said. “If individual liberty is more important to you than job security, your decision when navigating this question as an employee will be much easier.”

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