The University of Pennsylvania health system wants to “set an example for those who remain hesitant” by requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by September 1.
The healthcare system’s move could encourage other employers to follow suit, said Neil Goldfarb, president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Business Coalition on Health.
It makes sense for a health care system to lead on this because the sick population it serves is particularly at risk for COVID-19, said Goldfarb, whose group will host an event Monday for members on promotion and advocacy. vaccine policy, and hide mandates in the workplace.
“I think we’ll see healthcare organizations moving first with mandates and then expanding to other employers with a lot of direct contact with the public, such as retailers and transport workers,” Goldfarb said. “This may ultimately lead to a broader implementation of mandates for all employers.”
A wide range of the biggest and largest employers in the Philadelphia area – Campbell Soup Co. Cooper University Health Care, Independence Blue Cross, Rivers Casino, Temple University Health System, Vanguard Group Wawa and Wells Fargo – said Wednesday that ‘they were encouraging but not demanding that employees be vaccinated.
“With nearly 80% of the Cooper University Health Care team fully vaccinated, we do not plan to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory at this time,” a spokesperson for Cooper said.
Two health systems, Doylestown Health and Jefferson Health, said they were assessing the need to require vaccination. Temple said he was monitoring the situation closely.
Independence, the region’s largest health insurer, does not have a vaccination mandate, but will only allow vaccinated employees to return to the company’s headquarters on 19th and Market streets in the downtown area when the business begins. to bring employees back to the office in September, a spokesperson said.
Among the employers Penn Health could influence is its academic parent. The University of Pennsylvania requires students to be vaccinated for the fall, but as of now, faculty and staff not. The university is still considering a term for faculty and staff.
Only about a third of adults are vaccinated so far. In Philadelphia, only 34.5% of residents aged 16 and over are fully immunized.
If more private employers decide to require employees to be vaccinated, they will have a solid legal foundation, given the more than 100 year history that supports vaccination mandates as important public health measures, said Eric Feldman, professor at Penn’s Carey School of Law.
“It’s pretty clear with the COVID-19 vaccine that it responds to the basis of public health promotion brilliantly, and private employers are able to impose all kinds of demands and restrictions on employees, and this is in no way contrary to the law. that I see civil rights law or other groups or classes being protected, ”Feldman said.
Some labor lawyers are interested in the complications of US disability law.
In December, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission said companies could require employees to be vaccinated. But they still have to accommodate employees who exercise an exemption from the vaccination mandate under the ADA, said Mike Schmidt, labor and employment attorney at Cozen O’Connor’s New York office.
This is one of the two main reasons why many employers are reluctant to mandate vaccines. “I think companies don’t want to deal with the accommodation issue and draw lines and deal with the legal nuances and then the inevitable lawsuits that will come with it,” Schmidt said.
Another reason most companies are reluctant to impose a vaccine requirement is that it could put them in a corner, Schmidt said. “If you have this mandatory policy, and let’s say 30% of your workforce doesn’t want to get vaccinated, are you prepared to enforce your policy and lay off 30% of your workforce?”
Yet Schmidt said he too expects to see more terms. “As fall approaches, certainly as the end of the year approaches, I think more and more companies are going to move on from thinking about it to maybe requiring vaccination.