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Local employers hesitate to impose vaccine mandates due to worker shortages

Max Schulte/WXXI News

As the Delta variant leads to increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases and some governments are starting to require their employees to get vaccinated, private employers are taking a closer look at such policies.

But something is standing in their way.

"What's holding them back is if they implement a vaccine mandate, people will quit or people won't apply," said Beth Cordello, a labor and employment attorney with Pullano and Farrow.

Cordello said the clients she represents, which include companies in the health care, manufacturing and food service industries, would probably be implementing vaccine mandates if there were enough workers to fill each job.

"They want to have safety in their workforce, they want to provide a safe environment for their customers," Cordello said, "but they also want to be adequately staffed."

Mandatory vaccines have always been acceptable in the workplace, and even though some people are hesitant or resistant to the COVID-19 vaccines that are available, Cordello said employers have the law on their side.

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Attorney Beth Cordello

If a company mandates a vaccine policy in its workplace, the employer must still allow exceptions for employees who have sincerely held religious beliefs or medical conditions that prevent them from accepting the shot. 

However, the federal government has said that COVID-19 poses enough of a risk to the public to override any such accommodation, meaning an employee could lose their job for refusing the vaccine.

If COVID-19 cases become widespread again, employers would likely be more inclined to put vaccine mandates in place, regardless of their concerns about worker shortages, according to Cordello.

"As the virus heads in the wrong direction, employers will necessarily have to move in that direction as well," she said.

Click on the LISTEN link above to hear the interview with Cordello.

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.