Monday, January 24, 2022

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Hampton Roads Businesses Potentially Affected By President Biden’s Vaccine Mandate Orders

President Joe Biden recently implemented a six-prong attack on the pandemic that “will ensure that we are using every available tool to combat covid-19 and save even more lives in the months ahead, while also keeping schools open and safe, and protecting our economy from lockdowns and damage.”

The six prongs of the comprehensive strategy include:

–                 Vaccinating the unvaccinated

–                 Further protecting the vaccinated

–                 Keeping schools safely open

–                 Increasing testing and requiring masking

–                 Protecting our economic recovery

–                 Improving care for those with covid-19

The first prong, Vaccinating the Unvaccinated, includes several sub-mandates:

–                 Requiring all employers with 100+ employees to ensure their workers are vaccinated or tested weekly

–                 Requiring vaccinations for all federal workers and for millions of contractors that do business with the federal government

–                 Requiring covid-19 vaccinations for more than 17 million health care workers at Medicare- and Medicaid-participating hospitals and other health care settings

–                 Calling on large entertainment venues to require proof of vaccination or testing for entry

–                 Requiring employers to provide paid time off to get vaccinated

–                 Ensuring Americans know where to get a booster

The first three bullets are causing some concern for employers—including those in Hampton Roads—especially since employers are already struggling to fill jobs. Large employers based on the Peninsula, including Ferguson and Riverside, are examining their options to create the least amount of resistance from employees that are not comfortable being “forced” to get vaccinated in order to keep their jobs.

The Newport News Shipyard is also heavily affected as they are a major contractor for the federal government. Due to the state of the economy, the recent “legalization” of marijuana, and this new mandate, they will have a difficult time finding a pool of qualified candidates and keeping current employees that are critical to their current positions.

Small businesses may fair better during this process. In addition to potentially being able to hire employees who may leave their current jobs based on not wanting to get vaccinated or periodically tested for covid-19, the President’s new mandate on Protecting our Economic Recovery will provide:

–                 New support for small businesses impacted by covid-19

–                 Streamline the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness process

–                 Launch the Community Navigator Program to connect small businesses to the help they need

As previously reported, President Biden also recently made it mandatory for all military personnel to be vaccinated. According to the Department of Defense, 73 percent of active-duty personnel had already received at least one dose of the vaccine before the mandate was put in place. Many of the remaining troops stated they would get the vaccine once it was made mandatory by the Department of Defense.

The Presidential mandates may actually make it easier for employers to enforce vaccine policies, especially those that have contracts with unionized laborers. What may have been previously perceived by employees to be an infringement on their rights by their employer is now a national mandate. None-the-less, large local employers are already offering incentives for employees to get fully vaccinated.

Aside from disability and religious accommodations, the law is primarily on the side of employers. Employees that refuse to get vaccinated or tested weekly could face disciplinary action, including being fired. Based on the President’s new mandates, this choice is now in the hands of the employees. For federal employees, the deadline to decide between their convictions and employment is now November 22, 2021.

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