Many Area Companies Delay Vaccine Mandate for Their Employees | Business

Many companies in the region are delaying orders to vaccinate all employees following President Joe Biden’s vaccination mandate.

Biden last week called on the Occupational Health and Safety Administration to develop a temporary emergency standard that would require employees of companies with 100 or more workers to be vaccinated or tested once a week. Employers could face fines of up to $ 14,000 per violation if OSHA enforces the mandate.

Jeff Ghannam, safety manager at Benco Dental, the country’s largest independent dental distributor headquartered in Jenkins Twp., Said Benco Dental has not required employees to be vaccinated to work, but will follow the mandate vaccines and associated regulations “once fully developed”.

“The challenge today is that there is significant uncertainty in a number of areas, which will become clearer as different agencies publish their requirements,” Ghannam said.

Although Benco Dental does not require employees to be vaccinated for work, Ghannam said the company encourages employees to get vaccinated and offers a financial incentive of $ 200 to associates who show proof of vaccination. At its Jenkins Twp. Distribution center, 85% of employees have been vaccinated, he said.

Benco Dental employs approximately 400 people in the CenterPoint Commerce & Trade Park in Jenkins Twp. With a lot of people working from home, their daily on-site average is 100 employees. The company has a mask mandate at all of its facilities across the United States for all associates, regardless of vaccination status, and temperature checks are required before entering any facility, Ghannam said. .

Elizabeth Hartman, spokesperson for Berkshire Hathaway GUARD Insurance Companies, said GUARD officials are awaiting a formal rule from OSHA and “will review it at that time, but plan to comply with any government mandate once. issued”.

GUARD has more than 800 employees in the Wilkes-Barre area. Most employees still work remotely, but they have the option of dividing their time between going to the office and working remotely, Hartman said.

Only essential workers, including property management, some IT staff, support services and security, should be in the office, she said. The company requires unvaccinated employees who choose to work in the office to self-test, she said.

“Berkshire Hathaway GUARD strongly encourages employees to get vaccinated,” Hartman said. “We offer paid time off for immunization appointments and if an employee is having difficulty finding a vaccination clinic or getting an immunization appointment, our human resources team will help them get an appointment. vaccination. “

Highmark, which employs about 700 people in northeastern Pennsylvania, expects all employees to be vaccinated by September 30, but has not required them to be vaccinated, the door said. -speaking of Highmark, Anthony Mastrisciano.

If employees are not vaccinated, however, they must wear masks at all times when working in any of the buildings in Highmark, Matrisciano said. Aside from the workers who operate the buildings, almost all have been working from home since March 2020, he said.

“We plan to start bringing some employees back to the office at all of our sites, including Wilkes-Barre, in October,” he said. “Some employees will also be considered ‘hybrids’, when they work in the office on certain days and remotely on certain days.”

Highmark recently issued a statement that he is revising the federal vaccine mandate that Biden announced on September 9 “because it has many implications for the whole organization.”

“Once the organization has had time to determine if and how our current policies will be revised to comply with the federal vaccine mandate, we will provide an update to our employees,” the Highmark statement said.

Geisinger announced last month that all employees will need to be vaccinated.

Geisinger spokesman Matt Mattei said the deadline for employee vaccinations has been extended to November 1. As of Friday, nearly 83% of employees had been fully vaccinated, had received the first dose of a two-dose series or had been approved for an exemption, he said.

Lowe’s, which employs more than 1,000 people in Luzerne County, continues “to assess the administration’s vaccine policy developments,” Lowe spokesman Steve Salazar said. Lowe’s has yet to share an employee plan.

Mohegan Sun Pocono at Plains Twp., Which employs more than 750 people, expects “more clarity” on the recently announced federal requirement, spokesman Cody Chapman said. When OSHA develops a plan, it said it will provide an update.

Joe Fasula, co-owner of Gerrity’s Supermarkets, said 1,100 employees at nine stores in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties are currently not required to be vaccinated, but that could change.

“Right now there are so many moving parts,” Fasula said. “Since the whole story broke, we haven’t gotten any further information. We’re sort of waiting to see what else they have to say. Obviously, we will comply if we are required to follow it. We certainly couldn’t afford a $ 14,000 fine, but I don’t understand how they expect us to apply it.

Robert Tomkavage, editor, contributed to this report.

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