Employees at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis have until the end of August to get vaccinated against COVID-19 if they want to keep their job, Minneapolis Fed president Neel Kashkari announced Wednesday.
‘In order to fulfill our public-service mission, we need more face-to-face contact than remote work allows, but there is no way for us to bring a critical mass of our staff back into our facilities and maintain social distancing. Hence, we need our employees to be vaccinated.’
— Neel Kashkari, president and CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis
There will be exceptions for workers with medical conditions or religious beliefs barring the shot, he noted.
But otherwise, this is the new normal — at least at the Minneapolis Fed. “Future hires will be subject to this policy,” Kashkari wrote.
There’s something lost with fully remote work, he said. “Simply put, while we will enjoy more flexibility in where we work going forward, we are not going to be a fully remote institution.”
Kashkari’s announcement is a high-profile move at a time when many employers have tried all sorts of enticements and incentives, but ultimately shied away from mandating vaccination as a condition of continuing employment.
For example, in one May survey of large employers, 3% said they were requiring COVID-19 vaccination and 15% were considering it. In an ongoing U.S. Census Bureau survey of small businesses, 5% said they were requiring worker proof of vaccination. That’s the national average as of replies from late June.
Over 82% of the Minneapolis Fed’s more than 1,100-person staff have already been fully vaccinated, according to Kashkari. “Most of the remaining 18 percent have not told us their vaccination plans, and a small percentage have indicated they do not plan to get vaccinated.”
Ahead of the new policy going forward, Kashkari said “we strongly encouraged all of our colleagues to get vaccinated.”
As of Tuesday, more than 58% of America’s adult population was fully vaccinated and 67% have had at least one of their shots, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
Kashkari said the law was on his side in making vaccination mandatory. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal workplace regulator, confirmed that employers can require vaccination for in-person work, he noted.
Last month, a federal judge upheld a Houston, Texas hospital system’s mandatory vaccination policy. After the judge’s dismissal, more than 150 workers refusing the shot either resigned or were fired, according to the Associated Press.
Some observers have said the recent court decision might nudge more hospitals and healthcare providers into a mandatory vaccination policy. The trend may gain steam depending on whether the Pfizer
vaccines get full FDA approval, some say. But the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis is no healthcare provider.
Kashkari’s announcement didn’t mention the judge’s decision, which is being appealed.
“While some staff may be unhappy with this new requirement, we believe most will appreciate the actions we are taking on our collective behalf,” Kashkari wrote. “We hope our remaining staff get vaccinated so we can all get back to our important mission of serving the public.”