Workplace vaccine refusal consequences: workers get fired, not hired or die of COVID

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Consequences for workplace vaccine refusal are quickly becoming reality as workers get fired for not complying with vaccine mandates, not hired for being unvaccinated or sometimes getting sick from contact with unvaccinated colleagues or customers.

Most of the major airlines reported this week that they are moving ahead with vaccine mandates ahead of the federal government’s mandate that all employers with 10or more employee require their workers be vaccinated for the Corona virus.

The Washington Post reported:

Nearly all of United Airlines’ U.S.-based employees have been vaccinated, the company said Tuesday, touting the success of its policy after becoming the first U.S. carrier to require the vaccine among its workforce.

COVID-19 workplace vaccine refusal

United’s deadline for meeting the requirement was Monday, and the carrier said Tuesday it has begun the process of terminating 593 employees who declined to be vaccinated and did not apply for a health or religious exemption. The company said less than 3 percent of its roughly 67,000 workforce applied for exemptions, while 1 percent didn’t comply.

“This is a historic achievement for our airline and our employees as well as for the customers and communities we serve,” chief executive Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart wrote in a memo to employees. “Our rationale for requiring the vaccine for all United’s U.S.-based employees was simple — to keep our people safe — and the truth is this: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated, and vaccine requirements work.”

Delta, which also led the way on workplace vaccine policy in the airline industry, unvaccinated employees will pay a $200 monthly health insurance surcharge beginning Nov. 1. Delta reports 82% of employees have been vaccinated, up from 75% at the end of August. Delta has has begun weekly testing for unvaccinated employees.

More companies are requiring vaccinations for new employees according to several new reports.

Nearly half of companies plan vaccine mandates, according to a survey by consulting firm Gartner Inc. It found 46% of firms plan to do so where such mandates are legally permissible. And even more firms will likely institute mandates by the end of the year.

“The new federal guidance, as well as the ongoing surge in Covid-19 cases due to the Delta wave, have combined to shift executive opinion on vaccine mandates significantly since the beginning of the year,” said Chris Audet, senior director, research, in the Gartner Legal & Compliance practice., an independent review website for small business online tools, products, and services, recently released the results of a survey of 1,000 U.S.-based small business owners showed that, similar to the policy enacted by Delta Airlines earlier this year, 60% of small businesses will only be hiring vaccinated employees.

An additional 23% said they were considering a similar policy, while just 19% said that vaccination status was not a factor in hiring new employees, according to the survey.

This attitude toward vaccine compliance may be because small business owners have been burned in the past. 62% of those surveyed said that one or more of their current employees have tested positive for COVID. A full 66% say that they lost revenue due to employees taking time off after contacting COVID.

“I am requiring the new hires to be vaccinated, as they might cause significant health and safety threats to other individuals,” commented Caio Bersot, head of HR and one of several small business owners interviewed for the study. “It is really quite difficult to maintain considering the labor shortage situation in the market, still I would not take a risk that would threaten the health and safety of the other employees,” he said.

The attitude of small business owners toward workplace vaccine refusal could be key since many have fewer than 100 employees and are not covered by the federal vaccine mandate.

Meanwhile, workplace vaccine refusal has started having real consequences.

The Washington Post reports:

A North Carolina-based hospital system announced Monday that roughly 175 unvaccinated employees were fired for failing to comply with the organization’s mandatory coronavirus vaccination policy, the latest in a series of health-care dismissals over coronavirus immunization.

Novant Health said last week that 375 unvaccinated workers — across 15 hospitals and 800 clinics — had been suspended for not getting immunized. Unvaccinated employees were given five days to comply.

At Houston Methodist health care system, one of the first health systems to require coronavirus vaccinations about 150 employees were fired or resigned in June after a federal judge upheld the company’s policy. Hoston Methodist reported 24,947 of its workers did get vaccinated. Delaware-based ChristianaCare said this week that it fired 150 employee for refusing a vaccine mandate.

Despite vaccine mandates, some healthcare workers, predominately in conservative states where the Corona virus is surging, are suing to strike down vaccine requirement.

Despite Kentucky’s record-high number of COVID-19 infections, dozens of employees of St. Elizabeth Healthcare filed a federal lawsuit against the hospital in response to its workplace vaccine mandate. Filed September 3, the lawsuit alleges employees are being coerced into vaccinations with “unapproved” vaccines, despite the fact the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine received full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on August 23. All previous lawsuits filed by workers to overturn employer vaccine mandates have failed.

Law firm Fisher Phillips’ COVID-19 Employment Litigation Tracker reveals healthcare industry employers are the most frequent targets for COVID-19 workplace litigation. More than one in every five COVID-19 employment cases filed across the country (22.2%) has been against a healthcare employer. That is more than double the industry in second place.

A full listing of the COVID-19 top 10 most-litigated industries:

  1. Healthcare: 718 COVID-19 employment cases to date
  2. Retail: 310
  3. Manufacturing: 259
  4. Government: 218
  5. Hospitality: 216
  6. Education: 162
  7. Professional and Technical Services: 155
  8. Construction: 154
  9. Transportation: 137
  10. Finance and Insurance: 128

Police and fire department nationwide have also become both hotbeds of workplace vaccine refusal and hot spots for Corona virus infections.

Police in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego have been vocal about their work place vaccine refusal.

The San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs’ Association promised that deputies would quit en masse or seek early retirement over San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s new vaccine mandate for officers. The group says 160 out of 700 deputies are not vaccinated due to religious or other beliefs.

Axios, August 12, 2021

Head of police departments in Denver, Michigan and New York City have promised to discipline officers for refusing vaccination. As of early August the Fraternal Order of Police, a national police union representing 356,000 officers, estimated more than 500 officers had died from COVID since start of the pandemic.

Fire department’s nationwide have faced similar workplace vaccinate refusal among the ranks. Firefighters in department from Tacoma to Houston have threatened to quit over vaccine mandate, Kaiser Health News reports.

Firefighter leadership and the rank and file are divided about workplace vaccine mandates.

The International Association of Fire Chiefs supports mandatory vaccinations. Conversely, the International Association of Fire Fighters says it “strongly” encourages firefighters to get vaccinated, but does not support mandates.

According to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, which honors and recognizes firefighters who die in the line of duty, 170 firefighters and 78 EMS workers had died of COVID complications as of Sept. 17.

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