- Retailer Dollar General will offer a one-time payment equivalent to four hours' regular pay to front-line, hourly employees who receive a completed COVID-19 vaccination, the company announced Jan. 13.
- The company also said it is planning to make similar accommodations for distribution and transportation workers.
- "We understand the decision to receive the COVID-19 vaccination is a personal choice, and although we are encouraging employees to take it, we are not requiring them to do so," Dollar General said.
Dollar General's approach is one that management-side sources who previously spoke to HR Dive have repeatedly mentioned as part of the ongoing discussion around COVID-19 vaccination in the employment law space.
Incentives may be one alternative to vaccination mandates, which many groups of employees may be exempt from under federal laws. While the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) COVID-19 vaccine guidance said that employers can require proof of vaccination under certain circumstances, the agency also said certain inquiries related to vaccination could implicate the Americans with Disabilities Act's rules on disability-related inquiries. The law also can require policy exemptions as accommodations in certain circumstances.
An employer may also need to provide an accommodation to an employee whose sincerely held religious belief, practice or observance prevents her from receiving a COVID-19 vaccination, unless doing so would pose an undue hardship under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, EEOC said. There may also be legal concerns related to the National Labor Relations Act if workers protest vaccination, which could constitute protected concerted activity, attorneys previously told HR Dive.
Employers may consider providing paid time off to employees to recover from side effects associated with receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, and they can stagger employees' vaccination dates to ensure sufficient coverage, Brett Coburn, partner at Alston & Bird, said in a previous interview.
Should employers decide to offer a vaccination incentive in the form of cash rewards as part of a wellness program, they may need to note EEOC regulations on such incentives. The agency specifies that employers must provide a reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities to ensure such employees may participate in such programs, and if an accommodation is not available, a reasonable alternative to the activity must be available so that employees can still earn the award without participating in the activity.
Notably, EEOC has also proposed changes to its wellness program incentive regulations. The proposed rule, published Jan. 7, would require that employers offer no more than a "de minimis incentive" in order to encourage participation in the programs, except for wellness programs that "would be permitted to offer the maximum allowed incentive under the 2013 HIPAA regulations."