Quick Hits - August 18, 2021 - American Society of Employers - ASE Staff

Quick Hits - August 18, 2021

Do I, or Don’t I?  More than a dozen large U.S. corporations, including Walmart, Google, Tyson Foods, and United Airlines, have recently announced vaccine mandates for some or all of their workers.“With rapidly rising COVID-19 case counts of contagious, dangerous variants leading to increasing rates of severe illness and hospitalization among the U.S. unvaccinated population, this is the right time to take the next step to ensure a fully vaccinated workforce,” Dr. Claudia Coplein, Tyson’s chief medical officer, said in a statement Tuesday. Google and Facebook have mandated COVID immunizations for anyone returning to their U.S. offices. Walmart, which has 1.6 million U.S. employees, has imposed a vaccine mandate for all corporate and management staff, while store employees must wear masks in high-risk counties.  Walmart CEO Doug McMillon outlined the retailer’s plans to keep “gradually coming back into our office spaces with the idea of being closer to pre-pandemic levels after Labor Day.”  Many understand that if people stay unvaccinated a worse variant than Delta could greatly impact work.  Source:  CNBC 8/9/21

COVID childcare hurts careers:  More than six out of 10 U.S. adults with children under the age of 18 (62%) believe their childcare and virtual schooling duties during the COVID-19 pandemic have negatively affected their ability to get ahead in their job or career, according to results from the latest American Staffing Association Workforce Monitor® survey conducted by The Harris Poll among 2,066 U.S. adults, including 1,070 parents and 605 parents of children under 18.   People of color are more likely to say childcare duties have been a career obstacle during COVID-19. Seven in 10 Black/African American parents (70%) and 62% of Hispanic/Latino parents believe their opportunities for career advancement were negatively affected by their childcare and virtual schooling duties during COVID-19, compared with 5 % of White/Caucasian parents.  The study also found that 60% of men agree that added responsibilities in caring for their children during the pandemic has hurt their careers, while 51 % of women agree.  Source:  American Staffing Association

Although job openings are rising, are employers hiring?  Given a pandemic reopening of the economy, U.S. job openings jumped to a record high in June and hiring also increased, an indication that the supply constraints that have held back the labor market remain elevated even as the pace of the economic recovery gathers momentum.  Job openings, a measure of labor demand, shot up by 590,000 to 10.1 million on the last day of June, the Labor Department said in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS report.  The number of job openings exceed those unemployed.  However, many employers are seemingly waiting out adding new headcount and just replacing turnover.  Employers are not sure if the surge in demand is long-term or merely a sign of a COVID reopening of the economy.  It should be noted that economic activity is now exceeding pre Great Recession rates.  Temporary services are having banner years.  But everyone cannot find workers.  Source:  Reuters 8/9/21, Wall Street Journal

But where are the workers?  National Federation of Independent Business Chief Economist William Dunkelberg reports:  Small businesses continue to struggle to find workers to fill open positions. 49% (seasonally adjusted) of all owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period, up 3 points from June and a record high reading. Unfilled job openings have remained far above the 48-year historical average of 22%.  Overall, 61% reported hiring or trying to hire in July, down 2 points from June. The issue will be whether the supply of labor will cooperate. Owners’ plans to fill open positions remain at high levels, with a seasonally adjusted net 27% planning to create new jobs in the next three months, down 1 point from June’s record high reading.  Wall Street Journal 8/5/21

And if hiring, more are requiring vaccination in order to apply:  Vaccination is increasingly a requirement to be hired, as employers ranging from accounting and software firms to schools and restaurants are asking applicants to be inoculated against COVID-19.  The share of job postings stating that a new hire must be vaccinated have nearly doubled in the past month, according to the job search site Indeed. The total number remains low, roughly 1,200 postings requiring a vaccination per million in the first week of August. But that is well up from about 600 in early July, and about 50 per million job postings in early February.  Many of the postings don’t explicitly name COVID-19 as the vaccine required for employment, said Indeed economist Ann Elizabeth Konkel, who wrote the report, but broader context of the job descriptions suggested most employers were referring to the coronavirus vaccine, as opposed to other shots. Early this year, before COVID-19 vaccines were widely available in the U.S., very few job postings outside of healthcare positions indicated a vaccination requirement, she said.  Source:  Wall Street Journal 8/13/21

If this case occurred in Michigan, likely a different result:  In Colton v. FEHRER Automotive, North America, LLC, the 4’6” employee was assigned to work at a table that was too tall for her. Her request for a shorter table or a step stool was refused. Her complaint to human resources was brushed off, and she was then terminated as “not a good fit” (perhaps literally?) for the company. She then sued, but the trial court dismissed her lawsuit for failure to state a discrimination claim. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of her lawsuit, finding that she did not have a disability within the meaning of the ADA. Under the ADA, an individual has a disability if they: (1) have a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (2) have a record of such impairment; or (3) are regarded as having such impairment.  In other words, being short is not a disability.  Yet if this was in Michigan, the Elliot-Larson Act has height as a protected category.  It would be important to have an interactive discussion to see if there is a reasonable solution and not be dismissive of the ask.  Source:  Shawe Rosenthal LLP 7/30/21

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