Disney World just said they would no longer require staff (cast members) to be vaccinated against Covid-19. While Disney said earlier that they believed mandatory vaccination was the right path and that "more than 90% of active Florida-based Cast Members have already verified that they are fully vaccinated," they decided to stop.
What happened? A bit of Covid-whiplash.
Disney World isn't the only one experiencing this. All employers have been jerked back and forth by changing Covid policies from federal and state governments. Here's just a short list of what they and you face regarding Covid Policy.
- The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) said you could require employees to take the Covid-19 vaccine, but you didn't have to.
- OSHA said if you have more than 100 employees, you must require your employees to be vaccinated or subject to weekly testing.
- If your business is a federal contractor, you must require all your employees to be vaccinated (exceptions for religion and medical reasons granted).
- The Fifth Circuit Court said absolutely not to OSHA, but that only (technically) applies to Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi.
- OSHA said, "we're halting enforcement everywhere."
- The Sixth Circuit Court wins a lottery (really) to hear the rest of the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) cases.
- Florida passes a law prohibiting mandatory vaccines.
Add to that labor shortages and supply chain issues, and no wonder Disney stepped back. The OSHA ETS is currently not in place (and may never be). Florida-based employment attorney David Miklas points out that if Disney doesn't comply, it "could be a large target for the state to make an example."
Because Disney already has very high vaccination rate, Miklas says, "sticking with the mandate likely would only increase vaccination rates a small amount and could have multiple negative consequences for Disney, including Union challenges and lawsuits from employees, employees quitting, decreased morale, and, of course, scorn from Florida's Attorney General."
Just because Disney World is stepping back doesn't mean they aren't concerned about safety. A Florida-based employment attorney, Stuart Silverman, points out that Disney did three things that indicate its commitment to Covid protections. First, they reminded all employees that "those not vaccinated must wear face coverings and physical distance." Second, "they reminded employees to voluntarily update their vaccination status if they are vaccinated." And third, they put all medical exemptions "on hold."
Disney, Silverman explains, is no longer doing the paperwork for exemptions because vaccinations are voluntary but the company is keeping that paperwork, so if their policy changes, they can pick up right where they left off.
It's something all businesses need to consider. If you're not a federal contractor, you don't have federal laws requiring vaccination other than the "general duty" to keep your employees safe.
With vaccination rates unlikely to increase rapidly, you need to decide how best to keep your business afloat. Outside of a handful of states, you can require vaccines without problems. (Courts have consistently upheld the right of private businesses to require vaccination.)
Your decision needs to consider your population, as well as the type of work you do. According to the Mayo Clinic, the national vaccination rate varies drastically by age group.
- 18-24 are 56.7% vaccinated
- 25-39 are 60.9% vaccinated
- 40-49 are 69.2% vaccinated
- 50-64 are 76.4% vaccinated
- 65-74 are 88.6% vaccinated
- 75+ are 83.4% vaccinated.
Your state rates may vary. And your talent pool may vary within your state. If you live in Florida, you'll need to comply with the new Florida law unless you want to be the business that challenges the new law in court. If Disney's decided to back down, it's probably a good indication that it's not worth the battle.