The Vaccination Minefield

            I continue to receive calls from workers about whether their employers can require them to get vaccinated.
            Over the last several weeks more public and private employers have begun to implement vaccine mandates for their employees, resulting in a large number of calls to folks like me as employees try to understand their rights.
            I have been doing a lot of reading and thinking on the matter as I try to keep up with the changing landscape.
            It appears to me that the pendulum is beginning to swing in favor of mandates as more and more folks come to terms with the idea that the most effective way of preventing the spread of the virus is by vaccinating as many people as possible.
            The Delta variant is reportedly creating havoc in parts of the country that have low vaccination rates. And while we continue to hear about breakthrough infections, authorities are vague on what factors are important in leading to breakthrough infections.
            But this past week we learned that while there was great hand-wringing about the Lollapalooza music festival being a super-spreader event in Chicago a few weeks back, it did not happen. The high amount of vaccinated party-goers was credited with keeping the infection rate low.
            Over and over again reports keep coming out that the Delta havoc is being powered by the unvaccinated. So it makes sense then that policy-makers and business leaders are pushing for more vaccines in order to drop infection rates.
            More and more the debate about vaccinations is becoming one about whether getting a vaccination is a personal choice or a public health obligation. And more and more folks seem to be taking the view that a vaccination is less personal choice and more public health obligation.
            Still, there are plenty of folks out there who remain hesitant about getting the vaccine, and they are not all dummies despite what some commentators would have you believe. So what can be done if you still object?
            Well, if you have a religious objection that is personal and sincerely held, your employer should probably provide you with a vaccine exception. But that exception does not come without strings attached.
            Employers should be taking all steps necessary to maintain the health and safety of their workers and their customers. This should therefore include mandatory masking for unvaccinated workers without exception, and regular testing at least twice a week. These two steps taken in conjunction with each other seem to be acceptable alternatives to a vaccination mandate by many authorities.
            However, there remains no requirement for an employer to provide its employees with vaccine exceptions where there are no religious objections or disability concerns for the employee.
            Still employers face the risk of losing valuable workers if they take the step of terminating vaccine-hesitant workers. That is why it seems important to me that employers find alternatives to mandates that can still satisfy the goal of maintaining the health and safety of all employees and customers.
            As always, clear communication will be the most important tool that employers and employees have in trying to navigate this vaccination minefield.

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