On Monday, Katie Abernethy, partner and employment attorney at The Noble Law, was interviewed on WBTV regarding vaccination requirements in North Carolina.
Maureen O’Boyle: President Biden announced the new vaccine mandate for companies with over 100 employees or more, so now WBTV’s Caroline Hicks has been looking into this and how local businesses are preparing. Caroline joins us now. So, what are you hearing from North Carolina based companies, Caroline?
Caroline Hicks: Well, at this point most companies are waiting on more information from the Department of Labor. There’s a lot they don’t know right now in terms of logistics and how this would exactly work, but some businesses are starting to get the ball rolling.
Uptown Charlotte is quiet. Many people are still working from home, but companies have been planning for months, Bank of America, Duke Energy, Wells Fargo, and Truist are collecting employee vaccination status. Soon, their employees will be required to get the shot or get tested weekly.
Katie Abernethy: It does send a strong signal to companies that were thinking about requiring vaccination in the first place that the federal government’s got their back.
Hicks: Employment law attorney with The Noble Law firm, Katie Abernethy, says the Department of Labor is within its rights to create this rule.
Abernethy: Courts have a very strong doctrine in place, the Chevron Doctrine, that provides that when an agency through formal rulemaking legislates in an area that Congress has given it permission to set rules in, that those rules are usually upheld.
Hicks: Professionals in Charlotte have mixed opinions.
Interviewee 1: It’s really up to everyone else, not the President of the United States, but that’s just my thought.
Interviewee 2: When I’m around a lot of people that are vaccinated, I feel way better, so to give employers that peace of mind, I think it’s a no brainer.
Hicks: Abernethy expects legal challenges in North Carolina but does not know how they will hold up in a court of law.
Abernethy: Employment is at-will in this state, so employers have pretty broad discretion within legal limits.
Hicks: And Abernethy says the Department of Labor has to draft the proposed rule and post it online, and there will be a time where the public could take a look at that rule before it would actually become effective. She believes it could be anywhere between 90 and 120 days before it would go into effect.
O’Boyle: Caroline, I’m curious, what if someone does not want to comply with these new protocols and they get fired? Can they get unemployment benefits? Hicks: Well, Maureen, we took that question to the state and they say no. They say if you choose not to comply with a vaccine mandate from your employer, you should not expect to be eligible for unemployment benefits, but they do say they do check out every claim. It’s a case-by-case basis, but, really, overall they say no, you should not expect those unemployment benefits.