Real Issues. Real Answers: Should LBM dealers require their teams to get vaccinated?

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As COVID-19 vaccines became more widely available, an LBM dealer in Virginia reached out to LBM Journal asking whether or not companies in our industry were requiring employees to get vaccinated. As we do each month, we sent the question to subscribers who’ve opted in to receive our email communications, and have included here a majority of the 195 responses we received. Thank you, readers, for your insight into this understandably controversial topic. The question was short and sweet. The responses showed, however, stark division on the issue.

RIRA vaccination

Responses from lumberyards and specialty dealers

“We are leaving it up to each individual employee and their right to choose how they want to handle the possibility of getting the vaccination. We do not want to come across to our employees as pressuring them to do something they are not comfortable with at this time.”

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“Neither I nor my business partner are getting the vaccine, so why would I expect my employees to? It’s their choice as free Americans. If we were in the medical field, I might feel differently.”

“We’re not forcing or requiring that anyone be vaccinated. That includes staff, vendors and customers.”

“This a really good question and I am afraid the answer will not be forthcoming until the issue is litigated in the courts. I personally believe that employers should encourage their staff to get the vaccine, but currently the flu vaccine is not mandatory as a condition of employment, so I really doubt that the COVID-19 vaccine will be either.”

“I do not think it is appropriate to require our employees to get vaccinated. Who knows what long term consequences could exist? If you let the state make those decisions then there is no possible liability.”

“No, we are not requiring employees to get them. We don’t feel that is our place and the potential issues with mandating it outweigh the benefits. From what we know of many our employees already have gotten the vaccine already or plan to.”

“We will not require vaccinations. We suggest and make every effort to let people have time to get them, but many are wary. I’m not sure why, but they say it’s too much government control. If they want to track me, they are going to be really bored.”

“Absolutely no. It’s a possible HIPAA issue, and a violation of human rights. They hurt nobody but themselves or others who choose not to take the risk of the vaccine. Let it go.”

“Not everyone is convinced it’s safe and/ or effective. It is still experimental and is only being given under an emergency authorization.”

“We let our team and our customers make their own decision if they want to get the vaccine.”

“The more pressure that is applied to force people to get vaccinated, the more resistance there will be. If given the opportunity to make the choice, I think most people will eventually take the vaccine.”

“We are still considering options related to this. Initial thought is to require anyone that has been working from home to get vaccinated before allowing them to come back to work in the branches or offices.”

“We have provided ‘COVID Pay’ to those who’ve tested positive for the virus or had symptoms prior to testing negative. Now, however, with vaccines available that will be discontinued.”

“If we could legally require everyone to get a vaccination at our workplace, we certainly would. However, I do not think that is an option.”

“We are encouraging our team to get vaccinated. I think everyone here has gotten at least one shot to date. It is alarming to see how many people are not getting the vaccine. Most people who are not taking it are buying into arguments that just are not true. Hopefully education will bring most people around.”

“This is only time vaccine have been put out to the public this quickly. No one should be forced to put something in their body that they don’t want to. We live in a free country, and we are losing our rights every day. Do you want to lose your rights? Do you like living in a free country?”

“Do you require any other vaccines for employment? Why would this one be any different? Last time I checked, we still live in a free country, and everyone is free to decide what vaccine they do or don’t want.”

“I’m using persuasion, and working it hard but respectfully, and I got the vaccine as soon as I could to show the way forward. We’re close to having 3/4 of our staff vaccinated.”

“I have 10 employees. Three got vaccinated. One had COVID last year. She got very sick after the first shot. The two men had little reaction. All three are 60+. We operate two stores, one in a town of 2,300, the other in a town of 575. I work in the smaller town, but we still have a lot of traffic in the store. We took very few precautions, only plexiglass over half the counter, stain stacked in front of the rest of the counter to maintain distancing. I never wore a mask; some of my employees did. I’ve had friends die from COVID-19. I’ve had friends with lengthy hospital stays from COVID-19. I’ve had friends test positive with no symptoms. I’ve gotten the flu and tested negative for COVID-19. I believe this vaccine is an individual’s choice.”

“No, we do not require it, but highly encourage it and we are giving additional COVID PTO days in case there is any negative reactions or need for the time.”

“Ask yourself, would you have considered requiring a flu shot? Susceptible people died from the flu too. There are treatments for COVID. There is a higher chance of surviving COVID than the vaccine being effective. It’s important to maintain freedom and personal choice. It’s not right for everyone and just because you get a vaccine, it doesn’t mean you won’t get the virus.”

“At this point we are not making our employees get the COVID-19 vaccine. That may change down the road, but for now we will wait and see what happens. The other question will be if they don’t get the vaccine and get the virus, then do you pay them for sick time?”

“Vaccination is a very personal choice. injecting something into one’s body is a risk I’m not willing to take responsibility for.”

“The team at our store decided individually that we would all get the vaccine when available, however we all think it is a personal choice and no one should be forced to take it.”

“We are strongly encouraging our employees to get the vaccine and I believe 98% of them will do so. The ones who refuse have the personal right to do so. I have seen a good number of our people say they were not going to get it, but when it became available decided to get vaccinated.”

“Vaccination is strongly encouraged, and paid time off is given to receive and recover from the vaccine. If not vaccinated, employees must continue with the precautions required as if the pandemic were still in effect.”

“Legally, I just don’t think it’s possible.”

“Factually, the current COVID vaccines have not been either tested for safety or for producing immunity to COVID-19. Two are not even vaccines but are genetic engineering products under any usual definition (before double-speak re-definition under the table). Given the facts, it would approach insanity for a business to try to mandate vaccination. Add the other wrinkle that since the two are not really vaccines, the government protections from liability will also not apply should one feel that they could be protective.”

“We had the same assumption and were also surprised to find out that not everyone would want one. So, while I have heard employers can require it, we will not require everyone getting the vaccine. Instead, we plan to incentivize those who do get their COVID-19 vaccination, ultimately making it their choice whether they want to get vaccinated or not. No pressure, no judgment.”

“These vaccinations are experimental. They have been proven but rushed through as emergency vaccinations.”

“Be careful! Your influence on an employee about medical purposes should be very limited due to possible future litigation. I strongly believe in the vaccine, but not all people think the same, and have not lived their life with the same thought as mine. Many people opt out of the influenza shot every year, but they are not forced to get one.”

“We set up a session with our local pharmacy to make it easy for our staff to get the vaccine. We are not requiring it nor providing an incentive. It’s a personal decision for all.”

“All I can do is set an example and encourage my staff to get a vaccine when they ask my opinion.”

“We are allowing it to be an individual choice. Many who are on the fence may move towards getting vaccinated when they are inconvenienced while trying to do the things they enjoy like sporting events, flying, entertainment, etc.”

“You cannot force a person to inject something into their body that is not FDA approved in order to continue working.”

“We require the vaccine for summer help and interns, but not regular employees. We offer employees paid time off for getting the vaccine, and a paid day off that is scheduled for the first business day after their second shot. We also try to counter misinformation about the vaccine with information from reputable sources.”

“The survival rate for this virus is over 99%, which means our natural immune systems are very capable of handling it. Very effective treatments are available for those who do get the virus. We believe in personal liberty and will in no way get involved in our employees’ personal health decisions. They can get it or not, we will all be fine.”

“We had enough of a battle and bad publicity making people wear masks in our store, we can’t afford to lose good workers on vaccination beliefs. We do require them to coordinate their shots with us, so we don’t have two or three people off the next day due to the after- effects of the shot.”

“Vaccination is a personal decision. Do your best to educate and encourage.”

“I believe more research needs to be done on these shots and better understanding of what they do and do not do. Making this a requirement is not something that would be acceptable.”

“We will not require our employees to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. However, we will encourage them to do so as vaccines become available and provide relevant information to help them make appropriate decisions for themselves.”

“Nobody should be forced to put something in their body that they aren’t comfortable with. Forcing someone to get vaccinated is taking away their freedom to make choices about their own body, which belongs to nobody but themselves.”

“I am strongly encouraging everyone to get a vaccine. I don’t feel that I can make it mandatory but am waiting to see more information as it becomes available on this topic. I want our employees to feel comfortable and safe working without a mask as soon as possible. We may make it mandatory to wear a mask if you do not get the vaccine.”

“Incentivize the employees to get vaccinated. Benefits such as extra PTO for vaccinated employees encourages greater vaccination rates among employees and allows me to move our business practices back to normal without looking like the bad guy. I don’t see it as my place to require a COVID vaccine any more than I require polio vaccination.”

“It’s optional if you want the vaccine you can get. You can’t have forced vaccinations. We are not Communist China, yet.”

“We are not requiring anyone to get vaccinated. To force someone to get a vaccine is taking away the right to choose.”

“Disease does not follow political ideology. As a member of society, we have to work as a team. Big Pharma doesn’t have a plan to kill everybody or put tracking devices in their body.”

“Like you, I am baffled by hesitancy to get the vaccination, despite large clinical trials and the vaccines’ safety records. However, there are people who cannot get the vaccine due to an underlying disability or religious conviction. Therefore, we are not requiring our employees to get vaccinated, but we are encouraging it. Our county health department came to our business yesterday and gave the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot to any of our employees (and their spouses and adult children) who wanted it.”

“We have been very active to educate our staff on the facts of the vaccine. At this point we have 70% who have received the first dose.”

“Encourage social distancing and the continuation of masks. Only in high consumer facing businesses, grocery, assisted living, etc., would I consider a vaccine mandate.”

“Absolutely not! No mandatory vaccine… we are not a communist country!”

“Four out of seven of us have been fully vaccinated and we are hoping that general social pressure gets the other three. In reality, there is one who will not ever get it.”

“Our leaders are sharing why they are getting it, but not requiring it.”

“Each person who chooses not to get the vaccine knows the risks of getting COVID-19 and have weighed the risks. You do not ask applicants to give you a list of their life-long vaccines before you hire them; neither should you require it now. No employer should ever require a person to get any vaccines.”

Responses from wholesale distributors, manufacturers, and service providers

“Would you require customers who enter your doors to have a vaccine? If not, I would really question mandating something upon my team members that I don’t mandate upon others entering the building.”

“It should not be a requirement. That being said, you can encourage your employees by offering them an incentive for doing so. For instance at a previous employer, we were given a $50 bill to participate in a free wellness program.”

“We are strongly recommending vaccinations and offering a small incentive ($30) upon providing proof of vaccination. We’ve been advised that a more significant incentive could potentially open us up to a discrimination claim in the event that someone opted not to be vaccinated for religious or health reasons.”

“Get the vaccine. They are safe and more importantly good for the health of our society and business.”

“We are giving people a small gift card—$10—as a token of our thanks to those who do get vaccinated.”

“It seems that requiring your employees to take an experimental drug that has no data on long term side effects would be illegal. Give them the opportunity to take it but don’t make anyone do anything.”

“If you take the choice away, the person is no longer free.”

“Why in the world would I infringe on my employee’s life choices? The same reason I oppose the vaccine card that you will see the present administration try and jam down our throat! Upset? Hell yes! Confused? We need intelligent people running this country, making common sense decisions, instead of politicians looking for a way to line their pockets. The government is the biggest threat to my business!”

“I think most public officials and many others have way overreacted to the pandemic. Those most at risk should be careful. The rest should move on with life.”

“Requiring someone to have a vaccine is invasive. If you start requiring that and putting stipulations on personal heath, where do you draw the line?”

“I believe I read that in some states it appears you can do this. I believe federal regulation is uneven on this point. I might also point out the if you are a union shop your contract may come into play. I recently did an informal poll with our people and a third do not plan to get the vaccine. I was surprised by this. It was split about 50/ 50 on the question of making it mandatory. This info does not make the decision any easier.”

“We have a very small sales office staff, and doctors we know and trust recommended taking the Pfizer inoculation. So we did!”

“We are offering to help employees set up appointments to get their shots, but so far it is voluntary. I have considered offering a $100 incentive for those who get their shots but have not implemented it yet.”

“It is a personal choice. Unfortunately, too many have been swayed away from getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Mandating it will likely backfire. You could give employees a choice between wearing a mask and getting vaccinated. More will choose the freedom that a vaccination would bring. History shows that vaccines work.”

“The vaccine is a trial; don’t allow your body or staff to be a lab rat.”

“We are considering adopting a European idea by inviting employees to tell us if they are vaccinated (response not mandatory). European retailers are posting color-coded signs in their windows, indicating if an establishment’s employees are 80% vaccinated (green), 60% vaccinated (yellow), or less (orange).”

“The vaccine isn’t 100% effective. The 100% is that if you do get it, it will not be deadly and symptoms will be significantly reduced. There is still risk with or without. Instead of requiring the vaccine, figure out a method that will encourage employees to participate. You could offer a free day off for anyone to get the vaccine or who already got the vaccine. It is always best to make it their idea.”

 

 

Hundreds of readers share their insights for this every-issue feature. Have a Real Issue? Contact Rick@LBMJournal.com.

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