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Here’s What U.S. Employers Are Doing to Encourage Vaccination

woman sitting at desk showing proof of vaccination on phone

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Key Takeaways

  • Many U.S. companies are requiring employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
  • A cascade of vaccine "mandates" followed the FDA's approval of the Pfizer vaccine.
  • Not all vaccination mandates are created equal. Different companies have different policies. Not all corporate policies apply to franchises.

Vaccine mandates are sweeping across all sectors as employers take a firm stance on protecting their workforces against COVID-19. Empowered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granting full approval to the Pfizer vaccine, more corporations are expected to announce some form of vaccine mandate.

Although it is legal for employers to require workers to be vaccinated, some companies are more hesitant to implement a mandate. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that employers must provide “reasonable accommodations” for people who cannot get vaccinated because of reasons such as religious belief and disability. 

Employers may have to consider possible allegations that a vaccine requirement “has a disparate impact on—or disproportionately excludes—employees based on their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,” according to the EEOC.

Still, several major companies have implemented some sort of vaccination mandate. Below is a look at their different policies.

Goldman Sachs

A day after the FDA approval, Goldman Sachs announced that its U.S. employees must be vaccinated to return to the offices or they would need to work from home. In addition, all employees of the investment bank are required to wear masks in common areas and those who are fully vaccinated will also receive weekly COVID-19 tests starting in September, Reuters reported.

Other banks, like Morgan Stanely and Citigroup, also announced vaccine mandates after the FDA approval, according to Reuters.

Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines was the first major corporation to announce a $200-per-month health insurance surcharge for unvaccinated employees. New hires, however, are required to be vaccinated. A COVID-19 hospitalization costs $20,000 on average, according to a Kaiser Health Foundation study, and a majority of the cost is paid by insurance coverage. 

Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian said in a memo that the average hospital stay for COVID-19 has cost the company $50,000 per employee. “This surcharge is necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company,” he wrote. 

The airline’s surcharge will be implemented via a “wellness program” that can impose penalties up to 30% of an employee’s health premium, Bloomberg Law reports. 

Major U.S. airlines have been hesitant to impose a mandate to avoid clashes with labor unions for pilots, some of which have expressed concern about the vaccines. So far, only United Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines require their employees to be vaccinated, while other airlines are holding off on their decisions.

Walmart

With roughly 1.6 million workers in the U.S., Walmart announced in July that it is requiring its office workers and those who travel between facilities to be vaccinated by October. However, the mandate does not extend to its frontline store and warehouse workers. 

McDonald’s

Like Walmart, McDonald’s has announced a vaccine mandate for its corporate employees only. For companies that run on a franchise model like McDonald’s, they may not have the authority to require vaccinations for restaurant workers, who are directly employed by the franchise licensees instead of the corporation. But in a campaign to promote vaccination, McDonald’s redesigned its coffee cups to include messaging that encourages customers to get inoculated. 

Facebook & Google

Facebook and Google are both requiring employees to be vaccinated before returning to the office.

Apple is encouraging but not mandating vaccinations. The tech giant delayed its return to office until October, but said that all employees in offices and stores must wear masks even if they’re vaccinated. 

Other tech companies, like Twitter and Amazon, have not updated their vaccine policies.

What This Means For You

It is possible for your employer to require vaccination, and more companies are beginning to do so. However, not all company vaccination policies will be alike.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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  1. Amin K, Cox C. Unvaccinated COVID-19 hospitalizations cost the U.S. health system billions of dollars. Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker. August 20, 2021.