More Charlotte employers may begin mandating vaccines

More Charlotte employers may begin mandating vaccines

Photo: Katie Peralta Soloff/Axios

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More Charlotte employers may start mandating vaccines for their employees following a plea from Gov. Cooper for the private sector to help increase vaccination rates.

What’s happening: Amid climbing COVID-19 cases and plateauing vaccinations, Cooper said Thursday that employees in state government cabinet agencies must either show proof of coronavirus vaccination or undergo regular testing, wear masks and socially distance at work.

  • This includes roughly 55,000 workers who work in areas like jails and the DMV.
  • He’s asking private employers to “at a minimum” verify vaccination status for their workers, too.

“Right now, being a good corporate citizen means getting your people vaccinated. Our economy depends on it,” the governor said.

Local hospital systems including Atrium Health, Novant Health and CaroMont all recently said they are requiring their thousands of employees to get the vaccine. The governor’s guidance is likely to encourage other employers to follow suit, says Charles Johnson, an employment attorney at Robinson Bradshaw in Charlotte.

“I think we’ll see an increasing number of employers require a vaccination as that seems to be the best means we have for combating the spread of Covid-19,” Johnson says.

Red Ventures, which employs roughly 1,400 locally, is reopening its Fort Mill campus Monday on a voluntary basis. Everyone who wants to return to work in person must be fully vaccinated. “Our hope is that we can loosen that requirement in the future,” says Tim Kullick, the company’s chief operating officer.

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Duke Energy, which has about 6,000 Charlotte employees, is requiring all workers to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. “We currently do not track or verify vaccination status, but we’re evaluating options for future tracking to identify those individuals who may qualify for relaxed face covering requirements if guidelines are adjusted,” spokesperson Neil Nissan says.

Ally is limiting office access only to those who are fully vaccinated, “in light of the recent developments regarding the delta variant,” spokesperson Caitlin Palumbo said in an email. The bank, which employs about 2,100 in the Charlotte area, is asking all of its employees to attest to their vaccination status by July 31. Ally is also asking all employees to consider wearing masks, even if they’ve gotten the vaccine.

Recent court decisions have upheld that it’s legal and appropriate for private and state employers to require vaccines, adds Johnson, the Robinson Bradshaw attorney.

  • A federal court in Indiana recently upheld Indiana University’s decision to require vaccines, for instance.
  • In North Carolina, there’s no state law prohibiting entire UNC system for requiring vaccination for all its employees and students, Johnson notes.

A growing list of large tech and media companies are also requiring employees to show proof of vaccination. Among them: Google, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter and the Washington Post, per CNN Business.

Yes, but: Some employers seem wary of requiring a vaccine outright. Instead, many — including Wells Fargo, American Airlines and Tryon Medical Partners — tell Axios they’re strongly encouraging it.

Johnson says employers he’s heard from are concerned about employee morale and turnover as they consider pandemic safety measures like vaccines. “Employers want to do the right thing for their employees but also for the community and workforce at large.”

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