The White House took sweeping actions on Thursday regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. President Joe Biden announced a new vaccine mandate for federal employees, those in health care, and any company with 100 or more workers.
Richard Dreitzer, a specialist in labor and employment matters, says the decision was due to employers’ sense of urgency to keep employees safe.
“Vaccines are proven by the FDA, they are safe and effective – that’s why they were proven for wide use – and there haven’t been any bad outcomes with people or very few of them, so people have more confidence that this is going to help them,” said Dreitzer.
President Biden also announced that the Department of Labor is developing an emergency rule to require all employers with 100 or more employees to get vaccinated. When it comes to potential mandates like this, Dreitzer says, it can get tricky at the state level.
“I think the federal government cannot do that. In our country it is sort of an instance of a federalism thing, because the federal government has to defer to the authority of the states on certain matters, and regulating the health and safety of the public usually falls on the states first and the federal government second,” Dreitzer said.
Dreitzer says the federal government does have the power to require vaccination for federal employees. He says certain employees are running out of options. You either get vaccinated or leave your job.
“Vaccines are safe, they are effective, they work," said Dreitzer. "The history of them is good. In terms of bad outcomes, it is minimal, so it is harder and harder for them to say without any credibility, 'I don’t trust these vaccines because they make me sick.'”
Dreitzer says people will not receive unemployment benefits if they get fired for not being vaccinated.
“No, because that is a direct order from an employer that has a legitimate interest in keeping their workplace safe. And they come up to you and present that to you as an employee, and you say, 'You know what? I don’t want to,'” said Dreitzer.