Companies pressure employees to prove they are vaccinated

Companies are increasing pressure on workers to get vaccinated, not necessarily with mandates, but with strong nudges.

For months, many employers have tried to convince workers to get the Covid-19 vaccine. The companies offered cash, time off, and other prizes to promote vaccines. Executives made personal appeals in public meetings and internal memos.

Now some of those efforts are taking on a more assertive and urgent tone. While most employers have not outright mandated that staff be vaccinated, many are asking workers to report their vaccination status or are implementing policies that restrict the activities of unvaccinated workers.

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Unlike the first wave of corporate efforts, which focused more on vaccinating front-line workers and essential retail, hospital and airline personnel, the latest push affects more professionals in banks, law firms and similar businesses. Some companies say they want to be certain that most of their workers are vaccinated before the general reopening of the offices.

Goldman Sachs Group INC.

GS 1.10%

last week he ordered his US employees to reveal on an internal portal whether they had received the vaccine. The Wall Street firm, which has not required vaccinations, has told staff that fully vaccinated employees who have registered their status can work without masks in their offices. Others will still have to wear masks at all times except at their desks. Other banks, including Morgan Stanley MS 0.40%

and Wells Fargo WFC 1.31%

& Co., have asked employees to voluntarily record their immunization status.

Morgan Stanley headquarters in New York; the company has asked employees to voluntarily record their vaccination status.


Photo:

Amir Hamja / Bloomberg News

The fact that employees are vaccinated could determine when they regain access to corporate offices and campuses in many companies. Tech giant Salesforce.com INC.

CRM 0.05%

It is initially inviting fully vaccinated workers who have disclosed their status to return to offices in places like San Francisco and New York, in groups of about 100 people at a time. Salesforce has avoided a vaccine mandate, although executives have spent the past few months encouraging people to get them. “We’re not being shy about it,” said Brent Hyder, Salesforce’s director of personnel.

Businesses are taking cover to increase pressure for new guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which recently said that U.S. employers can require that all workers entering a workplace be vaccinated. against Covid-19, although they must provide reasonable accommodations for those who are unvaccinated due to a disability or religious belief, the EEOC said.

Still, some employers have encountered resistance. The Houston Methodist hospital network recently suspended 178 employees who missed the hospital system’s early June deadline to get fully vaccinated, according to an internal email shared with staff. Those employees could face firing if they don’t comply, hospital officials said.

A group of more than 100 Houston Methodist employees recently filed a lawsuit challenging the mandate. His complaint argued that the hospital network “is forcing its employees to be human ‘guinea pigs’ as a condition for continued employment.” A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit on Saturday.

Across the country, states are distributing incentives ranging from free beer to $ 1 million lotteries to encourage residents to get their Covid-19 shots. But is the effort to increase vaccination rates working? And is it worth the cost? Photo Composition: Adam Falk / Akacceleratorfund

Hospital leaders, who say that around 25,000 of the network’s roughly 26,000 employees are now vaccinated, have held firm to the mandate despite the backlash. “As the first hospital system to order Covid-19 vaccines, we were prepared for this,” said Dr. Marc L. Boom, executive director of the network, in his email to staff last week. “Criticism is sometimes the price we pay for leading medicine.”

Companies generally have the legal right to ask employees if they have been vaccinated, labor lawyers say, and employers are using a variety of tools to do so. Payroll processor Automatic data processing INC.

ADP -0.20%

plans to soon offer a back-to-office digital dashboard feature that will allow workers to upload images of their vaccination cards, if requested by employers, and note whether or not they have been fully or partially vaccinated.

“What employers are looking for is how do I delimit: How do I know who is in which cube?” said David Palmieri, ADP divisional vice president.


“We treat people like adults.”


– Roger Crandall, CEO of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance

Several companies rely on the honor system. At Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., vaccinated employees have begun returning to company headquarters in Springfield, Massachusetts, to attend in-person meetings on a case-by-case basis and can remove their masks, CEO Roger Crandall said. The company plans to open some offices on a voluntary basis for fully vaccinated staff later this month. A larger-scale return is anticipated for the fall.

Executives debated asking people to upload vaccine tests, Crandall said, but chose not to, feeling that employees could be trusted to operate within health guidelines and company policies. “We treat people like adults,” he said.

Ambulances outside Houston Methodist Hospital, the flagship of a network that recently suspended 178 employees.


Photo:

callaghan o’hare / Reuters

Minneapolis law firm Lockridge Grindal Nauen in March ordered its staff of 100 to be vaccinated, barring an exemption for medical or religious reasons. Employees were not asked to submit tests, but to notify the company’s human resources director when they were fully vaccinated to help determine when they could reopen their offices or schedule more in-person meetings, said Susan E. Ellingstad, partner at the company. Ms. Ellingstad said there was no resistance and all employees complied.

“We are never going to get over this until we have enough people vaccinated,” Ellingstad said. “Employers have a role to play in this.”

Write to Chip Cutter at [email protected] and Orla McCaffrey at [email protected]

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