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States and Companies to Call the Shots on Vaccine Mandates for Employees

U.S. News & World Report logo U.S. News & World Report 1/14/2022 Kaia Hubbard
A Covid-19 vaccine is prepared for administration ahead of a free distribution of over the counter rapid Covid-19 test kits to people receiving their vaccines or boosters at Union Station in Los Angeles, California on January 7, 2022. - Los Angeles County reported more than 37,000 new coronavirus cases on January 6, breaking records again as a regional surge of the Omicron variant continues. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images) © (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images) A Covid-19 vaccine is prepared for administration ahead of a free distribution of over the counter rapid Covid-19 test kits to people receiving their vaccines or boosters at Union Station in Los Angeles, California on January 7, 2022. - Los Angeles County reported more than 37,000 new coronavirus cases on January 6, breaking records again as a regional surge of the Omicron variant continues. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

The Supreme Court dealt the Biden administration’s coronavirus strategy a decisive blow when it blocked enforcement of the vaccine-or-test rule that had just days before taken effect for more than 80 million workers nationwide.

President Joe Biden, although he was “disappointed” in the high court’s decision Thursday to block what he called a “common-sense life-saving requirements for employees at large businesses,” delegated to state leaders and employers, asking them to “do the right thing” by imposing vaccine requirements of their own.

And although a patchwork of mandates exist in states and localities – requiring populations of state workers, students, customers and spectators to be vaccinated – whether state leaders will step in on the types of private-sector employee requirements the Biden administration fell short on remains unclear.

At the state level, vaccine mandates for various state employees are common, like in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, according to the labor and employment law analysis firm Littler. Many of the requirements also apply to teachers.

New York City late last month became the first to extend its vaccine mandates to all employees within the private sector – a measure that goes further than the Biden administration’s would have. But outside of the nation’s most populous city, requirements for workers at private companies from local and state officials are few and far between. And even states with plans to adopt the vaccine-or-test standard announced they would not move forward with the rule at this time.


Video: Major cities ramp up vaccine mandates (FOX News)

Meanwhile, almost a dozen states have adopted rules to prevent workplace vaccine mandates – from seeking to ban the mandates entirely or imposing specific restrictions on specific programs – including in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.

And until states weigh in on the issue, corporate America may once again be at the forefront of the vaccine conversation.

United Airlines and Tyson Foods were among the first major companies to adopt a vaccine requirement for their employees during the summer months. More recently, many airlines, along with major employers from McDonald’s to Walgreens have committed to following suit. But it remains unclear how some companies with plans to require vaccinations in line with the federal requirement will proceed without pressure from the White House. Others still, including two of the nation’s largest employers – Walmart and Amazon – have yet to issue a company-wide mandate, while many have pushed off plans to enforce their vaccination policies until they return to the office.

Still, around 36% of U.S. workers said prior to the Supreme Court decision that their employer required them to be vaccinated against COVID-19 – a figure that has remained steady since October, according to a December Gallup poll.

Copyright 2022 U.S. News & World Report

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