I just came across my store to-do list from last March, and was not surprised to find that nothing that seemed urgent then seems important now. Who would have thought that about a year later, one of the most pressing issues for our shops would be flu vaccines?

The roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine is a very welcome development, and holds the promise that we can eventually return to some semblance of normalcy.  In the meantime, we need to think about the issues  regarding vaccination for our staff, and for our customers.

One question that is being posed is whether as a business owner you can require your employees to be vaccinated.  According to an AP Wire story, “Experts say employers can require employees to take safety measures, including vaccination.”  There are, however, those who may not want to get vaccinated for medical or religious reasons. You may even have employees who belong to the anti-vaccine movement.

Michelle S. Strowhiro, an employment adviser and lawyer at McDermott Will & Emery, says that many businesses will encourage vaccination without requiring it.   This may actually lead to greater compliance, especially if there is a small incentive associated with getting vaccinated. Paid time off for getting the injections, and for any possible reaction the next day, may also be welcome.  

But what if an employee cannot, or will not, get vaccinated?  According to the EEOC (the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), the Americans with Disability Act – which covers businesses with 15 or more employees – allows an employer to have a qualification standard that includes “a requirement that an individual shall not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of individuals in the workplace.”  In other words, if there is a risk to your other employees, you don’t need to offer work to an unvaccinated person.

How will you know if your employees have been vaccinated? In a very helpful article in the Wall Street Journal entitled Covid-19, What You Need to Know When You Get the Shot, Dr. Julie Boom states that “Adults will receive a vaccination card that includes the lot number and name of the administered vaccine along with a reminder to get their second dose. Those going for their second dose will need to bring this card with them. You may need your vaccine document for work or travel purposes.”

Later we’ll have to decide whether proof of vaccination cards will be useful in a retail setting to allow vaccinated customers priority access to one-on-one personal service, in-store classes and special events.  In the meantime – especially since it will be many months until a significant percentage of the population has received both doses of the vaccine – we need to continue to require masks, hand sanitizing and social distancing. These precautions are also important because the vaccines aren’t 100% effective, Professor Wafaa El-Sadr points out in the Wall Street Journal article.  But hopefully the end is in sight!

Happy Retailing,
Carol “Orange” Schroeder