TJX is the latest industry name to draw a hard line on employee vaccinations: get the jab, or get out.
The owner of off-price chains including TJ Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods previously told all corporate headquarters and regional office employees they must fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by Nov. 1 last year. The company also said it would require all U.S. office associates who received their final doses before June 1, 2021 to get boosted by Feb. 1, and those vaccinated after that date to receive a booster shot eight months later.
TJX this week reiterated that employees who fail to comply with the vaccine requirement will be terminated. “Being fully vaccinated and boosted for Covid-19 or having an approved accommodation remains a condition of employment for our U.S. Office Associates,” a TJX spokesperson told Sourcing Journal Friday. “We have provided some flexibility to those who have demonstrated that they are in the process of getting vaccinated or boosted to meet the requirement as we wish to provide them with every opportunity to retain their employment with TJX.”
TJX has “worked diligently to provide accommodations for those who cannot get vaccinated due to qualified medical or religious reasons,” and will continue to field those requests, the spokesperson said. The mandate applies only to corporate employees and not store associates or distribution center workers.
The off-price company’s stance follows Nike and Columbia Sportswear‘s move to terminate workers who failed to prove they were fully inoculated.
A Thursday Supreme Court ruling on vaccine mandates might throw a legal wrench into some companies’ plans, however.
The court’s 6-3 ruling strikes down the vaccine and testing agenda President Biden enacted in November as an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The measure required employers of 100 or more to ensure their workers were fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or submit to weekly testing, subjecting roughly 84 million American workers to the ETS.
“OSHA has never before imposed such a mandate. Nor has Congress,” the majority opinion read. “Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the Covid–19 pandemic, it has declined to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here.”
President Biden was “disappointed” by the Court’s decision to block “common-sense, life-saving requirements for employees at large businesses that were grounded squarely in both science and the law.” Now it is “up to States and individual employers to determine whether to make their workplaces as safe as possible for employees,” he said, again urging corporations to adopt their own vaccine and testing requirements. “I call on business leaders to immediately join those who have already stepped up.”
Reversing course on the federal vaccine mandate presents “a major setback to the health and safety of workers across the country,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh said.
“Regardless of the ultimate outcome of these proceedings, OSHA will do everything in its existing authority to hold businesses accountable for protecting workers,” he added.
Industry trade groups have pushed back against the federal requirement since it took effect last fall, with the American Apparel and Footwear Association and the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America citing concerns about the nation’s ongoing labor shortage. Requiring applicants to provide proof of vaccination creates another hurdle for brands and retailers that are already vying for workers, they said.
Taking a different tone, National Retail Federation (NRF) president of government relations David French called Thursday’s decision “a significant victory for employers.”
“As NRF and other plaintiffs articulated in our briefs before the court, OSHA clearly exceeded its authority promulgating its original mandate under emergency powers without giving stakeholders the benefit of a rulemaking process,” he said. “NRF urges the Biden Administration to discard this unlawful mandate and instead work with employers, employees and public health experts on practical ways to increase vaccination rates and mitigate the spread of the virus in 2022.”