No one wants to lose their job. But, the reality is that the workforce is greatly affected by externalities such as economic downturn and stay-at-home orders. We saw this in 2020 when the COVID-19 Pandemic first hit as roughly 9.6 million U.S. workers (ages 16 to 64) lost their jobs during 2020 and in the early half of 2021. At this point, fear of a job loss plagued many Americans. 

Unfortunately, just as the pandemic began to somewhat wind down and the workforce began to grow less fearful of job loss as stay-at-home mandates were lifted and the economy began to turn upward, a new externality arose which reintroduced fear within many American employees; the vaccine mandate. On November 4th, The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) developed a rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work. Osha also requires employers to do the following: 

  • Determine the vaccination status of each employee, obtain acceptable proof of vaccination status from vaccinated employees and maintain records and a roster of each employee’s vaccination status. 
  • Require employees to provide prompt notice when they test positive for COVID-19 or receive a COVID-19 diagnosis. Employers must then remove the employee from the workplace, regardless of vaccination status; employers must not allow them to return to work until they meet required criteria. 
  • Ensure each worker who is not fully vaccinated is tested for COVID-19 at least weekly (if the worker is in the workplace at least once a week) or within 7 days before returning to work (if the worker is away from the workplace for a week or longer). 
  • Ensure that, in most circumstances, each employee who has not been fully vaccinated wears a face covering when indoors or when occupying a vehicle with another person for work purposes.  

This new standard re-instilled fear of job loss within many employees as the “accommodation” that the standard provides for the unvaccinated works to separate the vaccinated from the unvaccinated. Not only will an individual’s employer know if they are vaccinated or unvaccinated, but since only the unvaccinated are required to wear a mask in the workplace, every employee will know their coworker’s vaccine status as well. This accommodation makes it so a private health decision is now turned into a big visual marker of individual beliefs; beliefs that might not be shared by coworkers or bosses. 

 Given the polarization that the vaccine has created, as well as the stigma that surrounds those who have decided to not receive the vaccine, many fear as though they will be treated differently by fellow coworkers and bosses alike based upon their decision of whether to receive the vaccine or whether to be unvaccinated. Unequal treatment by coworkers or bosses can no doubt result in a job loss. All workers, vaccinated, and unvaccinated are entirely justified to fear a job loss based upon their vaccine status.  

For example, many companies, like Twitter and Salesforce are requiring that those employees who are unvaccinated to work remotely. Working from home doesn’t necessarily equate in being fired, but it certainly is not going to help an individual to excel in their career either, especially when compared to their coworkers who are back at the office working one on one with other employees and managers. Inherently, those who work from home just aren’t going to perform as well as those who are in the office, and they also do not have the same visibility that their in-office counterparts have. At the end of the day, as companies attempt to make budget cuts and restructure, those who work from home are just simply more likely to be the first to go. It’s an unfortunate truth, but it is reality.  

Although this example only justifies fear of a job loss on behalf of the unvaccinated, the bottom line is that due to this new standard, every worker, vaccinated or not, is facing the fear of job loss. Biases in the workplace based upon the vaccine status of an employee do not just effect those who are unvaccinated, as those who are vaccinated are subject to bias as well. This is not an easy reality to accept. Fortunately, in a recent podcast, Jim Baker, CEO of Sumus sat down with Jeffrey Hawting, and discussed dealing with job loss; this podcast provides many beneficial pieces of advice to those who are either fearful of losing their job, or who have unfortunately lost their job. I encourage all to listen as they navigate this new unchartered territory that the OSHA standard has brought to the workplace.