Companies Seek Legal Clarity on Worker Vaccine Incentives Dr. Anthony Fauci (Patrick Semansky/AP)
By Charles Kim | Monday, 24 May 2021 10:18 PM
Companies that want to see their workers vaccinated against COVID-19 are struggling to find a balance of effective incentives and the law.
Employers are using everything from paid time off to cash as rewards, Axios reported.
While most of these incentives used by companies such as Wal-Mart, Target, Dollar General, and Petco, amount to $100 or less, there is no guidance as to how big the reward can be before it violates federal laws, according to the report.
The U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission previously set a limit of up to 30% of an employee's health insurance premium as a maximum, but that rule was invalidated by a federal court.
President Joe Biden's administration and other entities pushing for the public to get one of the three vaccines for COVID-19 in the hopes of herd immunity once 75% of the nation is vaccinated. Businesses and trade organizations are pushing the EEOC to release guidelines on what they can offer.
In a Feb. 1 letter to the EEOC signed by several business and trade organization groups ask the agency to clearly state what can be done to incentivize employees.
"We write asking the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to quickly issue guidance clarifying the extent to which employers may offer employees incentives to vaccinate without running afoul of the Americans With Disabilities Act and other laws enforced by the EEOC," the letter read.
The reason these guidelines are so important is the number of people now getting the vaccination is dwindling, officials say, moving from those that were eager to those more skeptical about the need to be vaccinated or fear of the potential negative side effects.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 286,890,900 doses have been distributed nationwide with 130,615,797 people now fully vaccinated.
After peaking April 1 with more than 4 million doses administered in a day, the number of people getting vaccinated has dropped to just 1.4 million last Friday, according to the CDC.
Biden set the goal of having 160 million fully vaccinated by July 4, but some feel that goal will fall short.
"[That is] going to be harder because the next group of people who need to get vaccinated are just much harder to reach," Brown University School of Public Health Dean Ashish Jha said. "They're either far more ambivalent about getting vaccinated or have lots and lots of questions. It is to me much harder than building super-sites where you can vaccinate thousands of people in a day."
Experts told Axios, it is not likely you will see either the government or businesses mandate vaccinations.
"I don't think the pathway to a fully vaccinated public is through mandatory vaccinations," Johns Hopkins epidemiologist Jennifer Nuzzo told Axios. "I think that would actually backfire.”
Businesses are hoping the extra pay, cash, or other incentives prove to be enough to increase vaccinations and reach herd immunity so the nation can return to normal.