"We hope none of our employees will choose to leave their jobs rather than be vaccinated, but we won't know with certainty until then," the company says in a statement. The company also notes that it will continue to work with the employees to allay their concerns and educate them about the risks and benefits of vaccines.
Other large hospital systems have also issued similar directives.
New York-based Northwell Health has announced that it terminated 1,400 employees who refused to get their COVID-19 shot following the New York governor's vaccine mandate for healthcare workers. The system says that having a fully vaccinated workforce is an important measure of its duty to protect the health and safety of its staff, patients and the communities that it serves.
North Carolina-based Novant Health has also terminated more than 100 employees following the vaccine mandate, although it gives a five-day unpaid suspension period for those who want to comply with the directive. "If a team member remains non-compliant after this suspension period, he or she will have their employment with Novant Health terminated."
The Henry Ford Health System in Detroit has seen 400 workers walk out rather than take the required COVID-19 vaccines, comprising about 1 percent of the 33,000-strong workforce.
Henry Ford is the first Michigan health system to require its employees to get vaccinated as a condition of continued employment and is among more than a half-dozen large Michigan health systems to impose the vaccine mandate.
The vaccination mandates are not limited to healthcare systems, either. United Airlines has stated that about 96 percent of its employees have already been vaccinated, and fewer than 1 percent will be fired.
Employees who are hoping to avoid vaccinations can face an uphill battle in staying employed. With more and more businesses requiring their employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine, thousands who have been holding out are at risk of losing their jobs -- and it is likely that they can't collect unemployment benefits, either. (Related: People who get fired for refusing covid "vaccines" can be denied unemployment benefits, media says.)
Christopher Moran, a partner and employment attorney at Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders, says that those who don't want to be vaccinated or don't have religious or disability exemptions could lose their jobs, and will likely be found ineligible for unemployment compensation.
While companies like Kaiser Permanente, Northwell Health and United Airlines have employees that represent only a small share of the companies' overall workforce, the issue may affect more people in the future. Around 46 percent of organizations say that they plan to institute a vaccine mandate. The Department of Labor is also expected to issue a rule mandating vaccines or COVID testing among businesses with at least 100 employees.
The White House itself has required vaccines for all federal workers, contractors and other federal government and health care workers at facilities receiving Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.
Workers usually qualify for unemployment benefits in cases of "eligible job separation."
However, states differ in their definitions. In some cases, workers can collect benefits after they are laid off, quit a job for "good cause" or get fired for a reason other than "misconduct."
According to Anne Paxton, an attorney and policy director at the Unemployment Law Project, a labor agency could categorize the refusal to comply with a vaccine mandate as "misconduct." Thus, losing one's job as a result of refusing the vaccine could disqualify a worker from benefits if the refusal does not stand on medical or religious grounds.
The consensus is that employers are within their rights to protect workplace safety, and employees are not within their rights to refuse to comply, Paxton says.
Get more updates about the COVID-19 situation at Pandemic.news.