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More Employers Require Workers to Get Vaccinated Amid COVID-19 Surge  

A steady increase in COVID-19 cases is leading more private and public employers to demand that their workers get vaccinated or face repercussion, including losing their job.

COVID Vaccine.jpegMore than 150 Houston hospital workers who refused to get a vaccine in late June quit or were fired, Fortune reports. A Texas federal judge tossed out a lawsuit from Houston Methodist Hospital employees who had sued their employer for requiring they get vaccinated.

In late July, California and New York City issued an ultimatum for their workers to get vaccinated or subject themselves to mandatory testing. Private employers in New York City are being urged by Mayor Bill de Blasio to mandate their employees get shots, with San Francisco health officials issuing similar calls.

“There’s a longstanding precedent to set workplace rules,” says Dorit Reiss, a professor who specializes in vaccine policy at the University of California Hastings College of the Law. “A safe workplace is important not just for the employer, but also for the employees and for the consumers.”

On August 2, the U.S. reached a milestone: 70% of adults had received at least one shot of the vaccine. That goal came almost a month past July 4 goal President Joe Biden had set, The Washington Post reports.

Google is among global employers that have drawn up new plans amid the huge increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations driven by the delta variant of the virus, the Associated Press reports. The internet giant has set mid-October as the return date for most workers who were expected to come back to the office Sept. 1. It, along with Facebook, is also mandating vaccines for U.S. employees who work in their offices with exceptions for those with medical or other reasons.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai notified employees that once their offices fully reopen, all staff working from there will need to be vaccinated. Employees out of the firm’s Mountain View, California, headquarters and its other U.S. offices will be the first who will be subject to the mandate with its offices in more than 40 countries having to follow suit.

“This is the stuff that needs to be done, because otherwise we are endangering workers and their families,” says Dr. Leana Wen, a public health professor at George Washington University and a former health commissioner for the city of Baltimore. “It is not fair to parents to be expected to come back to work and sit shoulder-to-shoulder with unvaccinated people who could be carrying a potentially deadly virus.”

California starting this month required all state employees with private and public employers to confirm their vaccination status via a vaccine card or code issued by the state, Deadline reports. State officials said this was not a “mandate.” State employees who don't have proof of vaccination will be required to wear a mask at work and get tested regularly.

Almost every state, as of mid-July, has introduced bills that would not allow employers to require vaccinations as a condition to work. Five of these bills were signed into law by the respective governors of those states.

Employers are within their rights to mandate their employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 as long as it does not infringe on the Americans with Disabilities and the Civil Rights acts, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

While Google and Facebook are among the large tech players requiring vaccinations as well as Wall Street banks, GE, Boeing and most large manufacturers have not issued such mandates, The Wall Street Journal reports. Amazon, which still plans for some of its corporate workers to return to work next month, said it would not require its employees to get vaccinated.

Delta Airlines is sticking to its pronouncement in May that all new employees in the U.S. will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but won’t require the same from current employees, ABC News reports.

The Walt Disney Company at the end of July said all salaried and non-union hourly workers in the U.S. would have to be vaccinated. Those employees reporting to their worksites who are not vaccinated will have two months to get that done starting from July 30, says Paul Richardson, Disney's senior executive vice president and chief human resources officer. Disney is crafting vaccination policies for workers outside the U.S., Richardson adds.

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