Nike Will Fire Unvaccinated COVID-19 Employees

COVID-19 has presented challenges for a number of companies including the sportswear giant Nike. Factory closures, store shut-downs, logistic nightmares, and even a signature athlete, Kyrie Irving, publicly holding out from getting vaccinated – COVID has presented a variety of hurdles for Nike to deal with the past two years.

This week, Nike notified some employees that it plans to fire them on Saturday, January 15th because they haven’t met the company’s deadline to verify their vaccination against COVID-19 and haven’t received an exemption for religious or medical reasons.

This move by Nike is a bold and assertive step with respect to mandates, but those familiar with the situation have indicated that the actual number of employees who will lose their job will be relatively small.

Kyrie Irving is one of the highest-profile athletes to holdout from getting the COVID vaccine

Government mandates are temporarily on hold due to legal challenges. Last week, the Supreme Court heard arguments over the Biden administration’s authority to mandate vaccinations or testing at large employers or to set vaccine requirements at health care organizations.

The consensus amongst most legal scholars is that private companies like Nike are able to mandate vaccines regardless of the court ruling that is pending. And while there will likely be challenged in court between Nike and the fired employees, Nike is moving forward in terminating employees who haven’t demonstrated that they are within the company’s vaccine compliance.

“You failed to complete the verification process and our records show that you do not have an approved (exemption),” reads an email Nike sent to one employee last week. “As a result, you are not in compliance with the Policy, and your employment is scheduled to be terminated on Saturday, January 15, 2022.”

“You failed to complete the verification process and our records show that you do not have an approved (exemption).”

“As a result, you are not in compliance with the Policy and your employment is scheduled to be terminated on Saturday, January 15, 2022.”

excerpt from email sent by Nike sent to an employee last week

Though the number of Nike employees whose job status will be affected has not been released, a Nike employee told The Oregonian that about 120 employees at Nike objecting to the position by the company have been communicating online. It is unclear how many of the approximately 120 in the group will be affected by this decision.

Nike set a Dec. 1 deadline last year for employees to verify their vaccination status or apply for an exemption. The recent rise in Omicron strain followed this policy that was already set by Nike.

This story was first reported by The Oregonian.

UPDATE: The Supreme Court ruled in a split decision that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (commonly referred to as OSHA), charged with protecting workplace safety, overstepped its authority by requiring companies of over 100+ employees to vaccine or testing requirements. This ruling by the Supreme Court does not eliminate the possibility of states or individual employers from making their own vaccine or testing requirements.

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