TAMPA, Florida – Brian Reeves didn’t want to force his employees at Fantastic Sam to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“It’s their body, so they have a choice,” he explained.
But he wanted to lean on them, just a little.
“If I can encourage someone to go for a shot, then I’m going to do it by being in such a tight-knit company,” Reeves said.
Ninety of his employees at a dozen stores across the Bay Area accepted him on his offer of an allowance for gasoline money and time off.
“I just wanted to make sure we break down any barriers we possibly could,” Reeves said.
According to the EEOC, it would have been perfectly legal for him, or any other private employer, to offer anything from vacation days to bonuses to pizza.
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Legal analyst Anthony Rickman sees it as a way to encourage employers to find common ground with employees suspected of gunfire.
“It’s voluntary,” Rickman explained. “What they will say is that we gave these incentives, these are not bribes, we are pushing you to get the vaccine, and now you have it on purpose.”
At the same time, in its guidance published today, the government also says employers can just demand that you have a chance.
Rickman says that’s the government’s legal opinion, but that doesn’t mean it won’t end up in court anyway if someone wants their job back.
“They are trying to do the best they can to deal with the situation by protecting the rights of employers, the right to hire, the right to fire,” Rickman commented.
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Reeves isn’t sure how many of his employees will end up getting vaccinated, but until the end of June he’s making the shot a little softer.
“For me, it was about making sure they were healthy and they were on the job,” Reeves said.
The EEOC said it is not discriminatory to require an employee to receive a vaccine because it is not related to a disability and the unvaccinated are not a protected class under other federal laws.
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