NEW YORK (AP) – Businesses said to be affected by a Biden administration’s vaccine or testing requirement for workers have largely been left on the sidelines as the Supreme Court considers whether the rule can be enforced.
The requirement, which would apply to companies with 100 or more employees, has been the subject of numerous legal challenges and was upheld by a three-judge panel at the United States Court of Appeals last month. Since then, a large company – Starbucks – has announced its own vaccine mandate. He said in December that all American workers must be fully immunized by February 9 or face a weekly COVID test requirement.
Many companies, including Lowe’s and Target, have publicly said they will honor any federal vaccine mandate and are taking action to fulfill the mandate, but have not formulated their own demands. General Motors said on Friday that it “strongly supports” the COVID-19 vaccination in an email to the Associated Press, and that it is reviewing the rules “with multiple internal and external stakeholders and determining actions that we need to take to ensure understanding and compliance across the enterprise.
“GM continues to encourage employees to get vaccinated given the wide availability of safe and highly effective vaccines, which data consistently shows is the best way to protect yourself and those around you,” General Motors said.
The arguments before the Supreme Court come as businesses of all stripes grapple with labor shortages made worse by the rapid spread of the highly contagious omicron variant of COVID-19. Business groups like the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the National Retail Trade Federation have called the requirements onerous and could hamper companies’ ability to hire workers.
Jeff Levin-Scherz, head of population health at consulting firm Willis Towers Watson, says many companies are reluctant to take action because legal challenges have created a lot of uncertainty. He also pointed out that 14 states have enacted legislation that limits the vaccination mandates of employers. This makes it difficult for companies that operate in different states to create a uniform plan, he said.
Levin-Scherz also noted that some companies may not need to do their own vaccination mandates because almost all of them are vaccinated; others in more rural states typically have a much higher percentage of unvaccinated workers and this would require a greater effort.
A November 12-18 survey of more than 500 U.S. companies by Willis Towers Watson showed that more than half of all respondents need or plan to require COVID-19 vaccinations. This includes 18% who now require vaccinations; 32% who plan to require vaccinations only if the Biden rules go into effect; and 7% who plan to mandate them regardless of the status of the rules.
The survey also showed that very few employers with immunization requirements – 3% – reported an increase in quits, although nearly a third of those planning mandates fear this may contribute to the departure of employees from their company. On the flip side, nearly half of the employers surveyed believe that vaccination mandates could help recruit and retain employees.
In August, United Airlines became the first major airline to require its employees to be vaccinated or face layoff. Others followed in the fall, but withheld or dropped threats to fire anyone who did not receive the shots.
Dallas-based Southwest Airlines said on Friday it was awaiting a final ruling on the legal challenges and until then it will not apply the Biden administration’s Jan.4 deadline for all federal contractors to be vaccinated. The company notes that 93% of its workers are vaccinated against COVID-19 or have been granted housing.
Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, has demanded that all its head office workers as well as its managers who travel to the United States be vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 4, but it has ruled out first-time workers. line, which the company says have a vaccination rate that supports. The discounter did not provide any details on how it is taking action to meet the federal mandate.
AP Airlines writer David Koenig in Dallas contributed to this report.