Google is giving employees until January 18 to prove that they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 or apply for an exemption, according to a report from CNBC.
News of the requirement broke late Tuesday, but Google employees have been aware of the policy since December 3, when an internal memo alerted them to the deadline. If employees don’t upload proof of vaccination by then, they’ll be placed on paid administrative leave for 30 days and unpaid personal leave for six months after that. If they still haven’t shown proof of vaccination after seven months, they’ll be fired.
“We expect that almost all roles at Google in the US will fall within the scope of the executive order,” the memo said. “Anyone entering a Google building must be fully vaccinated or have an approved accommodation that allows them to work or come onsite.”
“Frequent testing is not a valid alternative to vaccination,” it said.
Google’s memo came three weeks after a federal court declined to lift a stay on President Joe Biden’s executive order that directed large companies to require vaccination for their employees. The Supreme Court is expected to take up the matter, but Google’s recent memo suggests that the company will proceed with its requirement regardless of the outcome of any future rulings.
“As we’ve stated before, our vaccination requirements are one of the most important ways we can keep our workforce safe and keep our services running,” a Google spokesperson told Ars. “We’re committed to doing everything possible to help our employees who can get vaccinated do so, and firmly stand behind our vaccination policy.”
Biden’s order was implemented by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, known as OSHA, which was granted the authority to implement workplace safety standards by Congress in 1970, when President Richard Nixon signed the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The search company has been clear that vaccines are part of a plan to reopen offices while also limiting the impact of COVID in communities where Google employees work and live. “Vaccines are key to our ability to enable a safe return to office for everyone and minimize the spread of Covid-19 in our communities,” Chris Rackow, Google’s vice president of security, wrote in an October email obtained by CNBC.
The company has cited its work with the federal government as another driving force behind the requirement. Government contracts touch nearly every part of the company either directly or indirectly, according to Rackow’s email, “encompass[ing] products and services spanning Ads, Cloud Maps, Workspace, and more.”
Employees who do not get vaccinated can apply for exemptions for religious beliefs or medical conditions, which Google has said it will grant on a case-by-case basis. Employees who are not vaccinated and do not receive an exemption will keep their benefits for 92 days. The company said that workers could search for other roles in the company that wouldn’t fall under the executive order and would be eligible for remote work.
It’s unclear how many positions would meet those criteria, but based on the memo, there probably aren’t many.
On the other hand, not many Google employees seem staunchly opposed to the requirement. Last month, 600 or so workers signed a “manifesto” asking the company to rescind the requirement. That’s just 0.4 percent of Google’s 150,000 employees.