WORLD Companies threaten jobs for vaccine refusal

WORLD

Companies threaten jobs for vaccine refusal

China Daily

12:29, August 16, 2021

Several of America's largest companies are mandating that employees get a COVID-19 vaccination before they head back to the office or face the threat of being fired.

A worker holds up a sign to signal their station needs more vaccine doses as people receive their coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination at Lumen Field Event Center in Seattle, Washington, US, March 13, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

The push for vaccination is happening across key sectors, including media, airlines, finance, technology, healthcare, the military, food production, ride-share companies, states and universities.

CNN fired three staff members in August who went into the news company's office unvaccinated.

CNN Chairman Jeff Zucker wrote in a memo to employees: "Let me be clear we have a zero-tolerance policy on this. Everyone from news, sports and studios who comes in now and going forward must be vaccinated."

The Washington Post said on July 27 that starting when workers return to the office in September, all employees must show that they are vaccinated against the coronavirus as a condition of employment.

In Washington state, Governor Jay Inslee announced on Aug 9 that most state employees and all healthcare workers must be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by Oct 18 or face firing.

The Los Angeles County Superior Court, the nation's largest trial court system, told employees that they must be vaccinated "as a condition of employment no later than 45 days" after the Food and Drug Administration gives final approval to at least one COVID-19 vaccine. Only those with religious or health reasons are exempt.

In a letter to the court's 5,000 staff, top executive Sherri Carter, said: "Ultimately, unvaccinated employees without an approved exclusion will be subject to termination."

Around 117 former workers at Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas are appealing a decision by a judge that the hospital had the right to fire staff for refusing to get vaccinated.

On June 22, at least 153 staff were fired or resigned for refusing the vaccines. The hospital system has nearly 25,000 employees across the state and became one of the first employers in the country in April to require COVID-19 vaccinations.

Members of the US military will be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine starting in September, the Pentagon said. The move is supported by President Joe Biden. Any service member who refuses can be punished under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Meat producer Tyson Foods announced on Aug 3 that COVID-19 vaccinations will be mandatory for all 120,000 of its employees in offices and slaughterhouses, starting Nov 1 as a "condition of employment".

Tyson's chief executive, Donnie King, wrote in a memo to employees: "We did not take this decision lightly. We have spent months encouraging our team members to get vaccinated — today, under half of our team members are."

Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, representing 1.3 million supermarket workers and meatpacking employees, said he wouldn't support employer mandates until the Food and Drug Administration gives the vaccines full approval.

Employers are legally allowed to ask employees to get vaccinated, according to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It states that exemptions can only be made for those who have medical or religious reasons to opt out.

Companies across the country have updated their vaccination policies after the Delta variant caused a surge in coronavirus cases.

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby announced on Aug 6 that its 67,000 US-based workers must be vaccinated and show proof of it by the end of October in order to return to work.

In a note to employees, Kirby said: "We know some of you will disagree with this decision. But we have no greater responsibility to you and your colleagues than to ensure your safety when you're at work, and the facts are crystal clear: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated."

However, Southwest, American and Delta won't require employees to get vaccinated, although they do strongly encourage workers to get the shot.

In August, healthcare company Kaiser Permanente announced that vaccines would be mandatory for all employees and physicians. CEO Gregory Adams said: "Making vaccination mandatory is the most effective way we can protect our people, our patients and the communities we serve."

Biden met on Aug 11 with the chief executives of United Airlines, Kaiser Permanente and Howard University to praise them for instituting vaccination mandates and urged other companies to follow.

In the technology sector, giants Google, Facebook and Microsoft have also said that employees must have taken a COVID-19 shot before they can gain access to their offices.

McDonald's will require all office employees to get vaccinated before returning to work.

But a large swath of Americans are unvaccinated for personal, health, cultural or religious reasons.

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