Human Resource directors put together a playbook for a game day that never came.
After months of hand-wringing, Michigan businesses breathed a sigh of relief when the Supreme Court rejected the federal vaccine mandate for businesses with 100 or more employees.
While they were in limbo, HR departments were tasked with sending out employee surveys to assess vaccination status, set up systems for collecting documents and scouring for tests for unvaccinated workers.
The pandemic has been “two years of working overtime” and the vaccine mandate only added onto the load, said Amy Marshall, president of the West Michigan chapter of Society of Human Resource Managers. She estimates putting together a policy of that magnitude – from communication to execution to follow-up – would be at least two months of work.
“So much time was focused on trying to get ready to implement new policy and procedures for the mandate and now that it is rejected, we can focus on true HR duties like employee retention, benefits, training and development to help retain our employees who have been with us during these uncertain times,” she said.
Marshall runs a staffing and recruitment firm in Wyoming and was already seeing candidates start to drop off when they learned vaccine questions were part of the initial job screening process.
While asking about vaccination upfront, or even including it in job requirements, felt intrusive to some, legally it’s been done before and will likely continue, employment attorney James Reid said.
Reid likens it to drug testing or screening social media during the application process. He also notes that private employers have the right to deny constitutional liberties like the right to bear arms if they set a workplace standard that employees cannot carry firearms while at work.
“A lot of your constitutional rights don’t apply in private employment,” he said. “Employers are able to make any policy they want that isn’t illegal.”
Employers still have the legal standing to implement some sort of COVID-19 policies, including vaccination, as long as they provide religious and medical exemptions. Reid anticipates his clients in Ann Arbor and Detroit will keep some version of the policy they prepared before the Supreme Court decision.
“A major challenge is that many employers are still having employees work remotely,” he said. “In order to get those employees to return back to work, you’re likely going to need to implement something similar to the ETS or some other masking policy to make employees feel safe.”