This past week Trinity Health announced it would require its employees and contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Under a rolling schedule, current employees must comply with the policy by September 21. People hired after September 1 must be vaccinated within 14 days.
Trinity’s announcement follows Henry Ford Health System’s decision announced in June that its workforce must get vaccinated by September 10, 2021. See Dustin Walsh from Crain’s Detroit Henry Ford Health System to require COVID-19 vaccine for all employees.
Why it Matters:
These vaccine mandates by Trinity and Henry Ford are part of a larger, national trend where companies require employees to be vaccinated or face termination. I expect this trend will continue along with challenges by employees who oppose any mandate to get vaccinated.
Our office has fielded many questions over the past weeks about whether employers can require employees to be vaccinated. If there is a “short answer,” it is “yes, probably, but with some exceptions.” In May, we explained that employers could require their employees to be vaccinated and encourage doing so according to guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). See EEOC says employers can require and encourage employees to get vaccinated.
And consistent with our analysis, on June 12, 2021, a Judge (a Reagan appointee) dismissed a lawsuit over Houston Methodist Hospital’s requirement that its employees must be vaccinated or face discharge. In that opinion, the Judge ruled Houston’s vaccine requirement does not violate state or federal law or public policy.
But we also explained that any vaccine mandate will also likely need exemptions. Likely exemptions would be for medical or religious reasons.
While we have not reviewed Henry Ford or Trinity’s policy, Dustin Walsh of Crain’s Detroit reported that both vaccine policies include procedures for employees seeking an exemption for medical or religious reasons. Trinity’s exemptions are discussed here and Henry Ford’s are here.
Other Considerations on Vaccine Requirements:
Trinity employs about 24,000 people in Michigan. And Henry Ford employs about 33,000. While many of these people have been vaccinated, a sizeable portion has not. So these vaccine mandates affect a lot of employees.
It is also not clear how many of the unvaccinated employees would choose termination over getting vaccinated. Going back to Houston Methodist, it was reported that out of approximately 25,000 employees, 153 chose resignation or termination over getting vaccinated.
It is also worth noting that Michigan employees would likely be ineligible for unemployment benefits if they chose not to follow their employer’s vaccine requirement.
Use this link to contact Michigan attorney Jason Shinn if you have questions about this article or complying with Michigan or federal employment laws. Since 2001, Mr. Shinn has represented companies and individuals about the issues discussed above and other employment matters under federal and Michigan employment laws. Further, in response to the coronavirus, he has represented both employers and companies to respond to it, including drafting COVID-19 related policies and addressing vaccine exemption issues.