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Originally Published: Jan 10, 2022
Originally Published: Jan 10, 2022 Last Updated: Jan 10, 2022 5 min read
Close-up of Citibank sign.
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Get vaccinated or find a new job.

More employers are giving their workforce an ultimatum that they must get the COVID-19 vaccine — and enforcing it. Thousands of unvaccinated workers at several large organizations, including many federal government agencies, are currently at risk of losing their jobs. Indeed, some employees have already been terminated over the issue.

Last week, Mayo Clinic, a major non-profit health care organization, fired more than 700 workers who failed to comply with the organization’s vaccination mandate. Mayo Clinic says approximately 1% of 73,000 workers had been terminated for not meeting a Jan. 3 vaccination deadline that had been set last summer.

United Airlines reportedly fired 232 vaccinated staffers last fall. Other major airlines threatened the same, but many have since backed down from their mandates.

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Many companies have set similar mandates that threaten incremental disciplinary action if their workers refuse the vaccine. Google and Citi (aka Citigroup), for example, have upcoming vaccination deadlines for employees this month.

According to an internal memo from Google leadership, reported on by CNBC last month, employees of the tech titan have until Jan. 18 to comply with the company’s vaccination policy. If workers refuse, they’ll first face paid administrative leave for 30 days, then unpaid personal leave for as much as six months before finally facing termination.

A Google spokesperson acknowledged the memo but would not comment about it on the record. "We’re committed to doing everything possible to help our employees who can get vaccinated do so, and have an accommodation process for approved exceptions," the company said in a statement released to Money. "We firmly stand behind our vaccination policy."

Workers for investment banking firm Citigroup (owner of Citibank) who don’t get vaccinated by Jan. 14 face unpaid leave right off the bat. And if they don’t get vaccinated by the end of the month, they’ll be fired, according to Reuters.

Citigroup, which was not available for comment. On LinkedIn, the company's head of HR, Sara Wechter, did confirm a vaccine mandate for all U.S. workers.

"We have made the decision to require U.S.-based colleagues to be fully vaccinated as a condition of employment," Wechter wrote.

The federal government, which employs approximately 3.5 million workers, is also beginning to take action against workers who weren’t fully vaccinated by Nov. 22, 2021, a deadline set by President Biden.

Several federal agencies are expected to start disciplining unvaccinated workers this month. Those agencies include the departments of Agriculture, Transportation and Treasury as well as the Social Security Administration, the General Services Administration and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, according to a report from The Hill.

The General Services Administration (GSA) says unvaccinated federal workers are “subject to discipline, up to and including termination or removal.” The federal government takes several steps before firing workers, according to the GSA. First, federal agencies typically provide education and counseling. Then they issue letters of reprimand followed by a suspension of up to 14 days. If the workers still are not vaccinated after those steps, they may be terminated.

For all of the organizations mentioned above, the vast majority of workers have complied with vaccine mandates. But the ones refusing to get vaccinated may be putting employers in a bind. Thanks to a record number of job openings and the ongoing "Great Resignation," workers have newfound leverage. Many employers are already facing staffing issues, which may make it extra difficult to figure out how or if to enforce vaccine mandates.

In most cases, workers who are fired for not complying with vaccine mandates aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits — an additional incentive to comply.

A few states, however, have carved out exceptions. Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Kansas and Tennessee may grant unemployment benefits under certain circumstances for those who were fired for shrugging off vaccine mandates.

President Biden’s vaccine mandate for employers with 100 workers or more was slated to go into effect nationwide as of Monday, Jan. 10. In lieu of the vaccine, workers could choose to get tested weekly, but the requirement is currently in legal limbo.

The Supreme Court held a special session on Friday to determine the legality of Biden’s mandate. The Supreme Court has not yet issued a decision.

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UPDATE: This story was updated on Jan. 10 with a statement from Google.

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