It was supposed to be over by now. Two months ago, it WAS over. And here we are again. Wringing our hands and raising our voices about masks and mandates without any clear answers. Who do we trust? What can we trust? What are our rights? What are our responsibilities? When will it end?
This hangover is lasting way too long. But here we are again confronting our uncomfortable reality. As the kids get ready to head back to school and we get ready to head back to a regular work life, it has become difficult if not impossible to predict exactly what is on the horizon for us in the rest of 2021 and beyond.
So let’s take it one at a time.
First, I would predict that vaccine mandates are going to become more prevalent because the statistical evidence is showing that the greatest bulwark against getting seriously ill from the disease is a full vaccine. In order for the economy to continue to move in the right direction, folks need to be working, going to school, and living their lives. The best way to prevent surges seems to be to increase vaccination rates.
The evidence is also clear that vaccinations do not make us bulletproof. But the more folks are vaccinated, the dangers of the disease seem to dissipate. So it makes sense that employers and governmental agencies are going to have an interest in promoting the vaccine and, in many cases, mandating it.
What can you do if you refuse a vaccine? Well, your options are fairly limited. Courts are not going to step in to protect your “rights.” Absent a religious or disability exception, it is unlikely that you will be able to sidestep a mandate. If you have a union, your union should be negotiating exceptions and compliance requirements. Without a union though, you are going to be limited in your options.
At this point, your employer is not going to be required to allow you to work from home in order to avoid a vaccination even if that would serve the interests of you and your employer.
I have maintained since the beginning of this pandemic that employers need to have open communication with employees about expectations and obligations. I also have maintained that mandates should be limited except in exigent circumstances.
Employees continue to have some bargaining leverage, and, ultimately, the way around a mandate may simply be to call the employer’s bluff. The labor market favors employees right now. If employees refuse a vaccine mandate, employers will have difficult decisions to make. Will they really let valuable employees go, or will they find a work around? I think they’ll find a work around for the valued employees.
I know I would.
After vaccines, the next hot topic is mask mandates. I thought I was done with masking back in June. Last week I went searching for my old stinky mask and bought a 20-pack of N-95s. I think they, like the Yankees, are making a comeback from premature statements of their demise in June.
I hate my mask, and I hate the Yankees, but I think they’ll both be with us through October and beyond. If your boss wants you to wear a mask, you’re going to have to abide. On the other hand, you can still pull for the Red Sox or the Rays or the Dodgers in order to diminish your misery.