Can employers require workers to be vaccinated? – National & International News – FRI 28May2021

As more people head back to work, many employers are grappling with how to encourage reluctant workers to get a COVID vaccine.

 

Can employers mandate vaccines for employees? Pentagon mulls Havana Syndrome memo to troops. UN to investigate war crimes in Gaza conflict.

NATIONAL NEWS

Can employers require employees to get the vaccine?

The answer to this question is far from clear cut. Recent guidance from the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal labor watchdog, says that employers can legally require employees to get vaccinated before returning to work. The EEOC has previously given similar opinions regarding flu and other vaccines, carving out some medical or religious exemptions.

However, the EEOC opinion is by no means the final word on this issue. Currently, there is no federal law that either permits or prohibits vaccine mandates in workplaces. Nor is there any provision that clarifies whether employers can fire employees for refusing a vaccine.

This has left the matter for state and local authorities and individual companies to decide. Some industries, such as the long-term care industry, have required employees to get the jab within a certain period or face termination. Other companies, such as major retailers, have preferred to offer incentives to employees to get vaccinated.

Several states are also considering legislation to prohibit vaccine mandates in workplaces. Montana has already passed a law that bars employers requiring vaccinations as a condition of employment.

In Mississippi, similar legislation has already died in committee. So as of now, there is no legal barrier in the state to prevent employers from requiring their employees to be vaccinated.

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Pentagon mulls Havana Syndrome memo to troops

The Pentagon is reportedly considering issuing a memo to its entire military and civilian workforce regarding the mysterious Havana Syndrome. The DoD memo would include a list of symptoms and ask that military and civilian personnel report any similar symptoms they might have experienced.

The Havana Syndrome is so named after a spate of illnesses at the US embassy in Cuba. US diplomatic workers in China have also reported symptoms. The syndrome presents with a cluster of symptoms that can include nausea, dizziness, disorientation, headache and usually either ringing or piercing “directional noise” in the ears. The symptoms come on suddenly and can have long term effects, including headaches and brain damage. 

No one is sure what the cause is, but the Defense and State Departments are investigating the phenomenon as some sort of attack. Some sufferers have reported being able to “step in” and “step out” of these sensations by moving their bodies elsewhere. A report by the National Academy of Sciences theorized that some kind of microwave weapon may be behind the attacks. But doubts remain and no one can say what sort of weapon could cause this type of attack.

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INTERNATIONAL NEWS

UN to investigate war crimes in recent Gaza conflict

The UN Human Rights Council will open an investigation into possible war crimes during the 11-day conflict between Israel and Gaza. The the 47-member panel adopted the resolution with 24 member states voting favor, 9 against, and 14 abstentions. 

The council will also be looking into “systematic” abuses both within Israel and the Palestinian territories. This would likely include reviewing Israel’s rampant displacement of Palestinians to make room for Jewish settlers. These evictions violate international law and the resulting anger helped to catalyze the recent conflict.

The council will also create a permanent Commission of Inquiry to monitor and report on human rights violations in Israel, Gaza, the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. This will be the first such COI with an “ongoing” mandate.

US steps up involvement

Predictably, both the US and Israel have denounced the UN decision. Up to now, the Biden administration has taken a relatively hands-off approach to Israel compared to Trump. Since the end of the recent conflict, Washington is spearheading efforts to rebuild Gaza. The Biden administration has also reopened the US consulate in Jerusalem in hopes of rebooting relations with Palestinian leadership. Part of the rebuilding effort is an attempt to reinforce the influence of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza. The Palestinian Authority is lead by the relatively moderate Fatah party and governs parts of the West Bank. In Gaza, however, Fatah has lost ground to the more militant Hamas in recent years.

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