Mandatory Vaccinations as a Condition of Employment: Agree or Disagree?

We are living in interesting times within the media industry and beyond. And we are collectively feeling our way through a global pandemic in real time while dealing with a very fluid situation. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) just announced they are moving ahead with their October convention in Las Vegas but will require that all those attending provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination to gain entry. Some organizations, including entire broadcast groups, have recently communicated to their employees that being vaccinated will become a condition of employment in the very near future with strict timelines given. Yes, mandated. Agree or disagree? I am absolutely not one to pass judgement. And I can honestly understand and appreciate both sides of the argument.  

As someone who recently became a “breakthrough” COVID-19 Delta variant victim who contracted this virus and experienced moderate symptoms while fully vaccinated, I can make the argument that receiving the vaccination may have saved me from a hospital trip or worse. Yes, may have. I see the value in vaccinations/gene therapy/shot/whatever you want to call it. And I will have my eleven-year-old daughter receive her shots as soon as allowed. I can also understand those who strongly feel they should have the right to decide whether or not to be vaccinated/gene-therapied/shot/whatever you want to call it and want more data before they choose to put a, what some would say…experimental, chemical into their body. Is this a vaccine or gene therapy? The research says gene therapy. And what will time ultimately uncover from possible side effects? Personal beliefs. Personal choice. And to make things more interesting, throw in deeply divided political points of view into the fray as well. 

This begs the question: Can your employer require you to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment? The short answer today? Yes. And here’s why. The government-run U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has stated that it is legal under federal law for companies to require their workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine, with a few exceptions related to other health complications, pregnancy, religious beliefs and other reasonable accommodations. Of note, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not mandate vaccination. However, whether a state, local government, or employer, for example, may require or mandate COVID-19 vaccination is a matter of state or other applicable law. 

In response, some employees have filed lawsuits against their companies for making them get vaccinated. But such actions may not always be very strong legal arguments. Why? Companies and government organizations have been requiring various vaccinations for years, dating back to the 1905 Supreme Court Ruling Jacobson v. Massachusetts. The justification for allowing employers to mandate vaccinations is based upon the premise that unvaccinated employees present a ‘direct threat’ to others in the workplace.

And get this: If an employee is fired over not complying with their company’s COVID-19 vaccine policy, such as the three CNN employees recently, they may not be able to collect unemployment. The reason? Typically, an employee who is let go for refusing to comply with a company policy is not eligible for unemployment benefits. Yep, like refusing to be vaccinated.

I have 24,000+ connections on LinkedIn with a large percentage working within the media industry. I conducted an informal poll on my LinkedIn page asking my connections if they agree or disagree with mandatory vaccinations/gene therapy/shots as a condition of employment. Within a day, this poll post had over 15,000 page views and nearly 400 votes. As the poll currently stands, 53% agree with mandatory vaccinations as a condition of employment, with 47% disagreeing. I found this outcome somewhat surprising, definitely polarizing, and perhaps following political lines. 

Where do we go from here? I guess time will tell. Interesting times, for sure. What affect will this have on recruiting into the local broadcast industry? I am already seeing an alarming number of professionals fleeing the industry. If what I do in recruiting into our industry is your “canary in the coal mine” as to the state of local broadcast, there are warning signs at a rate I have not seen during my ten years of hunting media professionals in this industry.

Ty Carver has over 30+ years of recruiting, HR management, sales, and leadership experience…including the last 10 specific to the broadcast media industry. He is the Founder/CEO of Carver Talent, a local broadcast media management recruiting firm. As the former Director of Recruiting for Raycom Media, he has deep industry relationships. Have a media corporate executive or television station management recruiting need? Contact [email protected].