EEOC says employers can demand, incentivize COVID-19 shots
TAMPA, Fla. - Brian Reeves didn't want to mandate his employees at Fantastic Sam's to get COVID-19 vaccines.
"It is their body, so they have the choice," he explained.
But he did want to lean on them, just a little.
"If I can encourage anybody to go get a vaccine, then I am going to do so, being in such a close-knit business," Reeves shared.
Ninety of his employees at a dozen stores across the Bay Area have taken him up on his offer of a stipend for gas money and time off.
"I just wanted to make sure we broke down all the barriers we possibly could," Reeves said.
According to the EEOC, it would have been perfectly legal for him, or any other private employer, to offer anything, from vacation days to bonuses to pizza parties.
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Legal analyst Anthony Rickman sees that as a way to encourage employers to find a middle ground with employees who are suspect of shots.
"It's voluntary," explained Rickman. "What they will say is we gave these incentives, they're not bribes, we are incentivizing you to get the vaccine, and now you voluntarily got it."
At the same time, in its guidance issued today, the government also says employers can just straight up demand you get a shot.
Rickman says that's the government's legal opinion, but doesn't mean it won't wind up in court anyway if someone wants their job back.
"They are trying to do the best they can with the situation by protecting the rights of employers, the right to hire, the right to fire," Rickman commented.
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Reeves doesn't know how many of his employees will wind up vaccinated, but until the end of June, he's making the shot a little sweeter.
"For me, it was all about making sure they were healthy and they were at work," Reeves said.
The EEOC said that it is not discriminatory to demand an employee get a vaccine because it's not related to a disability and that the unvaccinated are not a protected class under other federal laws.
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