Thu. Jul 29th, 2021

Houston Methodist, a hospital in Texas, is facing a lawsuit from more than 100 people after it told employees they all had to be vaccinated by Monday. Dozens of staff members gathered outside the hospital system’s Baytown location on Monday, holding signs that read “Vaxx is Venom” and “Don’t Lose Sight of Our Rights” in protest of the policy. On Tuesday, nearly 200 of the employees were suspended, and the hospital said if they did not get vaccinated by June 21, it would start the process to end their employment.

In theory, federal law should trump state law, but the situation is tricky: The recent guidance mostly functions as a reminder that federal equal employment opportunity laws do not prohibit employers from requiring vaccines. But states have been staking out their own paths.

In South Carolina, for example, state agencies can encourage employees to get vaccinated, but they cannot require them to be. They also cannot require South Carolinians to provide proof of their vaccination status as a condition for receiving government services or gaining access to any government buildings, following an executive order by Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican.

On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, also a Republican, signed a law prohibiting businesses or government entities in the state from requiring digital proof of vaccination, joining states such as Arkansas and Florida. It is not clear whether the new law will affect Houston Methodist’s mandate that employees be vaccinated.

Many companies are encouraging employees to get the jab rather than requiring them to do so. Target, for example, is providing up to four hours of paid leave for employees to get vaccinated, and covering taxi rides to and from the appointments. The supermarket chain Kroger is offering $100 to all associates who provide proof of vaccination. Salesforce, the software giant, will allow up to 100 fully vaccinated employees to volunteer to work together on designated floors of certain U.S. offices.

Delta Air Lines said last month that it would require new hires to be vaccinated but exempt current ones, becoming one of the first major companies to do so. United Airlines also said that it would require new hires to provide proof of vaccination within a week of starting, but would make exceptions for people who had medical or religious reasons for not getting vaccinated. It is giving three days of extra vacation to flight attendants who have received at least their first vaccine dose by Wednesday.