Google, Disney join growing list of employers mandating COVID-19 vaccines
Workplace vaccine requirements have emerged as the latest hot-button issue.
As coronavirus cases in the U.S. begin a concerning climb upward and virus variants threaten a return to normalcy, a handful of businesses have announced COVID-19 vaccination mandates as they prepare to welcome workers back to the office.
The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission said employers can legally require COVID-19 vaccinations to re-enter a physical workplace, as long as they follow requirements to find alternative arrangements for employees unable to get vaccinated for medical reasons or because they have religious objections.
Still, the requirements have proven a hot button issue as business leaders mull over office reopening plans, in some cases sparking legal challenges and immense pushback from workers who refuse the shot. President Joe Biden said Tuesday that a mandate to require all federal employees to be vaccinated is now "under consideration."
Here is a roundup of some of the major U.S. employers that have announced COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
United Airlines announced Friday that all U.S.-based employees will be required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and upload their vaccination card to a company site by this fall.
It's the first major U.S. airliner to mandate vaccines for employees. Delta announced earlier this year that it is requiring all new hires to be inoculated.
The airline's deadline for employees to upload their vaccine card is five weeks after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fully authorizes a COVID-19 vaccine or five weeks after Sept. 20, whichever comes first. Workers are incentivized, however, to move quickly.
"For those employees who are already vaccinated -- and for those employees who get vaccinated and upload their records to Flying Together before September 20th -- we'll offer an additional day of pay," United CEO Scott Kirby and United President Brett Hart wrote in a memo to employees.
"We know some of you will disagree with this decision to require the vaccine for all United employees," the executives added. "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."
Tyson Foods announced Tuesday that it would be requiring team members at U.S. office locations to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1, and all other team members to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1.
The company said in a statement that this action makes it the largest U.S. food company to require COVID-19 vaccinations for its entire workforce. The company, which dealt with workplace outbreaks amid the pandemic, also said it would provide $200 to its frontline team members for getting vaccinated.
"With rapidly rising COVID-19 case counts of contagious, dangerous variants leading to increasing rates of severe illness and hospitalization among the U.S. unvaccinated population, this is the right time to take the next step to ensure a fully vaccinated workforce," Dr. Claudia Coplein, the chief medical officer at Tyson Foods, said in a statement. The company said exceptions to the mandate will be made for workers who seek medical or religious accommodation.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said the company will require that employees be fully vaccinated to come to the office, according to an internal memo sent to staff that was obtained by ABC News.
“We know that vaccines are more widely available in some countries than others. Given the level of vaccine availability in the US, we will start by mandating vaccination for employees based there, and we’ll follow up with guidance for employees outside the US,” the email stated. “If vaccines are readily available in your country, we strongly encourage you to get one as soon as you can.”
The company also pushed back its “return to office date” to Oct. 25 and announced that all employees globally will be required to wear masks in the office.
In a memo sent to employees, Google's CEO Sundar Pichai also announced that the company's "voluntary" work-from-home policy had been extended through Oct. 18 after it was initially set to expire on Sept. 1. In addition, Pichai wrote that "anyone coming to work on our campuses will need to be vaccinated."
"We're rolling this policy out in the U.S. in the coming weeks and will expand to other regions in the coming months," the chief executive said. "The implementation will vary according to local conditions and regulations, and will not apply until vaccines are widely available in your area."
He said local leads will share further guidance with employees, including "details on an exceptions process for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other protected reasons."
Pichai added that he hopes these steps "will give everyone greater peace of mind as offices reopen."
Hours after Google's announcement, Facebook said Wednesday it will require anyone working at its U.S. campuses to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Implementation of the new policy will hinge on "local conditions and regulations," Facebook Vice President of People Lori Goler said in a statement to ABC News. There will be a "process" for those who will be exempt from the mandate, such as for medical reasons, Goler said.
ABC News has requested further details on the testing protocols and action for failure to adhere to the requirement.
"We continue to work with experts to ensure our return to office plans prioritize everyone's health and safety," said Goler, who noted that Facebook will be evaluating its approach outside the U.S. "as the situation evolves."
Facebook is headquartered in Menlo Park, California, and has offices in over 80 cities worldwide.
Some staff members at the Washington Post on Tuesday shared on Twitter that the company announced it was mandating vaccines.
In a memo sent to employees and shared with ABC News by the Washington Post, publisher and CEO Frederick J. Ryan, Jr. announced the mandate and said employees must also "demonstrate proof of full COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment."
The Post, which employs more than a thousand journalists and is aiming for a mid-September reopening, said accommodations will be provided to people with "genuine medical and religious concerns" and that they will need to document them with the human resources team.
"Even though the overwhelming majority of Post employees have already provided proof of vaccination, I do not take this decision lightly," Ryan said in the memo. "However, in considering the serious health issues and genuine safety concerns of so many Post employees, I believe the plan is the right one."
St. Jude's, Houston Methodist and more hospitals
The health care sector, perhaps unsurprisingly, has been one of the industries with the most vaccination requirements.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that all patient-facing health care workers in state-run hospitals are required to get vaccinated. "That is a point of contact, that could be a serious spreading event, we want to make sure those workers are vaccinated period," Cuomo said Wednesday.
At St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, staff were informed earlier this month that they had a Sept. 9 deadline to get vaccinated. "By September 10, employees who have refused vaccination or do not have an approved medical or religious exemption will be put on an unpaid administrative leave for two weeks," wrote Dr. James R. Downing, president and CEO of the Memphis hospital. "Those who fail to start the vaccination process will be terminated at the end of the two-week period."
The Houston Methodist hospital system in Texas, which oversees eight hospitals and has more than 26,000 employees, set a June 7 deadline for staffers to get the vaccine or risk suspension and termination. More than 175 staffers at the Houston Methodist hospital were temporarily suspended without pay last month after not complying with a mandate, and a lawsuit was filed against the hospital. A Texas judge sided with the hospital, tossing out the lawsuit filed by 117 employees who were against getting the shot.
Delta Airlines came out ahead of the curve on vaccine mandates. The airliner said in May that it would require all new hires in the U.S. to be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they qualify for an accommodation.
The Atlanta-headquartered company with some 91,000 full-time workers has said it will not be putting in place a company-wide mandate to require current employees to be vaccinated, though the new hires vaccine requirement kicked in on May 17.
The Walt Disney Company announced Friday that all salaried and non-union hourly employees in the U.S. must be fully vaccinated.
Employees working in-person who aren't already vaccinated have 60 days to do so as of July 30 while most employees working from home must provide proof of vaccination before returning, said Paul Richardson, Disney's senior executive vice president and chief human resources officer.
Richardson said the company is also developing vaccination protocols for employees outside the U.S.
Disney is the parent company of ABC News.
ABC News' Sasha Pezenik contributed to this report.
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