Mask and vaccine mandates add burdens to retail employers

Sep 30, 2021
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Written by Washington Retail
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The COVID-19 pandemic has placed an unprecedented burden on retailers since it began in early 2020. Masking, social distancing, and vaccination requirements have been only a few of the challenges affecting the industry.

While the mandates on mask-wearing have ebbed and flowed over the past year, Governor Inslee recently imposed new requirements for Washingtonians in most public indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status. While keeping employees and patrons safe is essential, tasking front-line employees to inform and enforce mask policies brings an added layer of stress to important front-line workers.

Implementing President Biden’s vaccine mandate for companies with over 100 employees will take time especially with components of the mandate allowing for weekly testing and paid-time-off requirements. WR’s national partner, the National Retail Foundation (NRF), has joined with the Retail Industry Leaders Association in asking OSHA for a 90-day extension regarding new federal vaccination rules. Although the president’s administration has yet to formally release details about the emergency rule, it will take time for companies to ready their organizations for compliance. With the holiday shopping season already underway, a 90-day compliance buffer would be a timely relief for retailers.

In Washington State, Governor Inslee’s mandates have essentially amounted to a policy of “get ‘vaxed,’ or get fired” for all state workers, teachers, and licensed healthcare workers. The deadline to be fully vaccinated is on October 18. With the one-dose J&J vaccine and a two-week wait to be fully vaccinated, the clock runs out on Monday, October 4.