Biden can’t force vaccines, but your employer can

HR directors have crafted a playbook for a game day that never came.

After months of twisting, Michigan businesses breathed a sigh of relief when the Supreme Court rejected the federal vaccination mandate for businesses with 100 or more employees.

While in limbo, human resources departments were tasked with sending surveys to employees to assess vaccination status, setting up document collection systems and seeking tests for workers. not vaccinated.

The pandemic has been “two years of extra work” and the vaccine mandate has only added to the burden, said Amy Marshall, president of the West Michigan chapter of the Society of Human Resource Managers. She estimates that setting up a policy of this magnitude – from communication to execution to monitoring – would require at least two months of work.

“So much time has been spent trying to prepare to implement new policies and procedures for the mandate and now that it’s been voted down we can focus on real HR stuff like employee retention, benefits benefits, training and development to help retain our employees who have been with us through these uncertain times,” she said.

Marshall runs a staffing and recruiting firm in Wyoming and was already seeing applicants start filing when they learned that vaccine questions were part of the initial job screening process.

While asking about vaccination in advance, or even including it as a job requirement, felt intrusive to some, legally it has already been done and will likely continue, the attorney for the work James Reid.

Reid likens it to drug testing or social media screening during the application process. He also notes that private employers have the right to deny constitutional freedoms like the right to bear arms if they establish a labor standard prohibiting employees from carrying firearms on the job.

“A lot of your constitutional rights don’t apply to private employment,” he said. “Employers can adopt any policy that is not illegal.”

Employers still have the legal status to implement some kind of COVID-19 policy, including vaccination, as long as they provide religious and medical exemptions. Reid expects his Ann Arbor and Detroit clients to keep a version of the policy they prepared before the Supreme Court ruling.

“A major challenge is that many employers are still having their employees work remotely,” he said. “To get those employees back to work, you’ll likely need to implement something similar to the ETS or some other masking policy to make employees feel safe.”

Related: Michigan businesses react to Supreme Court’s rejection of vaccine mandate: ‘It’s back to the drawing board’

A major criticism of the Biden administration’s tenure was that it was a blanket policy and each industry wanted input on how to tailor it to their workforce. Now that the country has debated for months over what should and shouldn’t be implemented, companies have plenty of feedback.

At the receiving end of these comments is the latest punching bag of the pandemic – human resource departments.

The Employers’ Association, which consults with more than 400 businesses largely concentrated in West Michigan, has been hosting roundtables for years to share ideas across industries and company sizes. Lately, those roundtables have turned into support groups, said association president Jason Reep.

“We try to help people explore yet other topics other than covid, but it comes down to covid anyway at some point,” he said of the monthly discussions.

The HR department has become the face of bad news as covid protocols evolve. The character of Toby, The Office’s hated human resources manager, has never been more real as these employees bear the brunt of questions and criticism, Reep said.

“The amount of mental exhaustion – on top of being hated by everyone – it was and still is extremely difficult for these people in HR,” he said.

Even with the Supreme Court decision, office morale took a hit. Reep said he’s worried about how the workplace culture can recover from so much conflict and political strife.

Recruitment and retention are priorities in such a tight job market.

Maggie McPhee, head of research and information for the Employers’ Association, said that within a week of the Supreme Court argument, several employers lamented that employees had already written resignation letters and were waiting to sign them if the terms of reference were adopted.

It shocked employers to see how fragile their workforce was, McPhee said. But at the same time, some members of the Employers’ Association have already seen the full pendulum as employees resigned and then returned before the Supreme Court had even delivered its verdict.

“Employees leave because they think ‘the grass is greener’ or [a business has] less than 100 employees, but then they turn around and they come back,” McPhee said.

HR and legal experts expect employers to rely on worker feedback, including remote work, to try to rebuild the bridge between boss and employee.

“We’re in a time right now where employees have more power than they’ve had for many decades,” Reid said.

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