This Employer Will Terminate Unvaccinated Workers by Jan. 31. Will More Follow Suit?

A man walking out of an office with box of his things after being let go.

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Some people's jobs may be on the line due to one company's strict vaccination policy.

Key points

  • Citigroup recently announced plans to terminate unvaccinated workers by the end of January.
  • As COVID-19 cases surge on a national level, it's conceivable more companies will follow in Citigroup's footsteps.

Many people thought by the time 2022 rolled around, we'd be in a better place with regard to the COVID-19 outbreak. But unfortunately, the presence of the highly transmissible omicron variant has managed to dash those hopes. In fact, we're starting off 2022 with record-high case numbers and healthcare systems across the country that are increasingly getting overwhelmed.

The current outbreak is also putting a strain on some employers. Higher infection rates mean more workers needing to go out on medical leave or quarantine due to exposures. The result? Lost productivity.

It's an issue one employer is trying to combat by imposing a strict COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Citigroup recently announced its employees must provide proof of vaccination by Jan. 14. Those who don't will be put on unpaid leave and be terminated by Jan. 31.

A bold move, and one more companies might make

So far, Citigroup seems to have the most aggressive vaccine policy among Wall Street firms. While many companies are imposing vaccine mandates, so far, no other major players have firmly announced a termination date for non-compliant workers.

But Citigroup is moving forward with its plans for one big reason -- it wants to make sure employees who return to the office in the near term can do so safely. While more than 90% of its employees are compliant with its vaccine mandate, that number is climbing as the mid-January deadline nears -- presumably, so more workers can stave off unemployment.

Of course, this begs the question -- will more companies follow in Citigroup's lead? Given how things stand with regard to the COVID-19 outbreak, that's a distinct possibility. Having unvaccinated workers on staff could make for a less safe office environment, and that's a risk employers may not want to take.

Generally, companies are required to offer exemptions to their vaccine rules due to medical or religious constraints. But can those who don't qualify for an exemption be terminated for cause? Absolutely.

If not getting vaccinated constitutes a clear violation of a given company's policy, then that's grounds for termination. Plus, in that case, someone who's fired for not adhering to a vaccine mandate would generally not be eligible for unemployment benefits, since those benefits are usually only available to workers who haven't been fired for cause.

So where does that leave you if you're unvaccinated and don't qualify for an exemption? Unfortunately, you may not have many options if your company decides to impose a mandate.

That said, in that situation, one thing you can do is ask for the option to work remotely. Your employer might agree to that solution on a temporary or long-term basis. Just keep in mind that if you'd normally be required to commute to work but your employer agrees to let you go remote, it may also look to cut your pay. Make sure you have some money in savings to cope with a hit to your income.

Of course, you can always try to seek out a remote-only job that doesn't have a vaccine requirement since workers don't come to an office to begin with. But be aware that if your current job requires a vaccine and you don't get one or qualify for an exemption, you could easily end up on the chopping block, as may be the case for a host of Citigroup employees.

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