While the Supreme Court may have just ruled against President Joe Biden’s broader vaccine mandates for employers, that hasn’t stopped some larger private companies from implementing their own vaccine rules.
Legal scholars generally agree that private employers are free to adopt vaccine mandates regardless of how the court rules. And that’s exactly what two of the biggest employers in Oregon are doing.
Sportwear giant Nike, whose global headquarters are located just outside Portland in Beaverton, Oregon, has notified some employees that it plans to fire them on Saturday because they haven’t met the company’s deadline to verify their vaccination against COVID-19 and haven’t received an exemption for religious or medical reasons. And Columbia Sportswear announced its own plans to take similar measures, giving its corporate employees until February 1st to comply or face terminations. Its mandate doesn’t apply to the company’s warehouse and retail workers.
Nike will fire unvaccinated employees this weekend according to (The Oregonian) 💉
— Ovrnundr (@Ovrnundr) January 13, 2022
Richelle Luther, Columbia Sportswear’s chief human resources officer, said the company will begin firing unvaccinated employees next month. She declined to disclose how many will lose their jobs but indicated it’s a relatively small number.
Tim Boyle, Columbia’s CEO, attended a White House meeting with President Joe Biden in September on vaccines in the workplace. Boyle told The Oregonian afterward he supported government mandates because they create a unified policy across organizations.
Vaccines save lives. I applaud the leadership of employers, like Oregon's Columbia Sportswear, who recognize the important benefits of vaccination requirements.
— Suzanne Bonamici (@RepBonamici) October 26, 2021
Some large employers, including Boeing, put their vaccine mandates on hold while they await legal rulings. Employees who lose their jobs for refusing such mandates typically aren’t eligible for jobless benefits, according to the Oregon Employment Department, but some may qualify for aid if they can demonstrate a medical or religious reason for choosing to remain unvaccinated.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Intel has told workers that unvaccinated people who don't get an exemption for religious or medical reasons will be on unpaid leave beginning in April.
— Carl Quintanilla (@carlquintanilla) December 22, 2021
Intel, Oregon’s largest corporate employer, set a January 4th deadline for employees to be vaccinated or seek an exemption. Unvaccinated employees must submit to weekly testing but face unpaid leave beginning April 4th if the company doesn’t approve their exemption request. Unlike Nike, though, Intel says it isn’t planning to fire unvaccinated employees and says they will continue to receive health care benefits while they’re on leave.