As the Delta variant drives up the number of COVID-19 cases, many businesses are now having to decide whether to mandate or require vaccinations for their employees.
“Employers are in a really tough spot on this. Trying to balance the needs of their business, the needs of their employees, the needs of their customers, there’s no easy answer any way you look at it,” said employment lawyer Marcelo Dieguez.
In some cases, companies have developed a two-tier policy with different rules for different employees depending on their jobs.
On Monday, Walmart announced a policy to “require all market, regional and divisional associates who work in multiple facilities and all campus office associates to be vaccinated by Oct. 4, unless they have an approved exception.”
But that policy does not include workers at stores that come in contact with shoppers and the public.
“I wanted to confirm that we are not requiring vaccinations for all in-store associates. Unfortunately, we are unable to accommodate interview requests at this time,” said Walmart spokesperson Payton McCormick in an email to NBC 7.
So why the double standard?
Dieguez said the decision in many cases is driven by economics and businesses struggling to hire workers.
“Employers are concerned they’re not going to have enough employees to do the job,” Dieguez said.
He also said it creates a system where the people most exposed are potentially the people with the least protection.
On the other hand, who’s responsibility is it to get vaccinated.
“Is it really the employer's responsibility to make sure all their employees are vaccinated or is it the individual who has to make their own choice and take some responsibility for their own health,” said Dieguez.
For its part, Walmart said it encourages all employees to get vaccinated.
The company now offers $150 incentives for store employees to get vaccinated at any one of its 5,100 Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies. Those employees can get vaccinated while on the clock and get two hours of paid time off.
As for Walmart shoppers, there’s mixed opinion on the stores policy not to require store workers to get vaccinated.
“I like the fact that they’re not requiring and mandating that people take the vaccination, if they don’t believe in it, if they don’t want to. I think that should be each person’s own individual choice,” said Jeremiah Massari.
“I don’t agree upon it, but it’s their policy and what their guidelines are. As far as me, as a customer, I’m going to continue to protect myself regardless, anywhere I go that’s a public place, even though I’m vaccinated,” said Eileen Decoy.