Almost 90% of Houston businesses want employees vaccinated, survey says

Tuesday, June 15, 2021
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In the wake of a court ruling against some Houston Methodist employees over their refusal in the face of a vaccine requirement, we looked into the numbers to see how many employers in the city are actually requiring vaccines.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Whether it's a retail store or the energy sector, more people are going back to work in person. It's what prompted the Greater Houston Partnership to conduct a survey earlier this month.

"We're trying to get some understanding of what is taking place in the community as far as return to work and protocols," said Patrick Jankowski, the Senior Vice President of Research for the Greater Houston Partnership.

The group surveyed 141 businesses.

"We got responses from 15 different sort of industries or groups, everything from manufacturing to retail, professional services, nonprofit, energy, so we do feel it's fairly representative of the business community in Houston," said Jankowski.

According to the survey, 87% of employers are encouraging but not requiring vaccinations. About half are using some sort of incentive and about 8% are requiring employees to get vaccinated.

"The incentive can be as simple as allowing them to move about the building without having to wear a mask or practice social distancing but some are more generous," explained Jankowski. "Some of them are actually offering monetary rewards. Some are offering them gift cards. Some are offering a day off as an inducement to get the vaccine."

Over the weekend, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by a group of employees at Houston Methodist Hospital who were fighting the hospital's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes called the lawsuit frivolous.

READ MORE: Judge dismisses suit against Houston Methodist Hospital over vaccine requirement

While a vast majority of businesses are not requiring the vaccine, dismissal legal experts said more could start requiring it.

"Employers who have been thinking about making their employees get vaccinated, I think this is going to give them confidence to say, 'Hey, we're allowed to do this. We're within our right to do this.' So I think you may see more businesses step up and try to force employees to get vaccinated," said legal expert Steve Shellist.

Shellist said if businesses mandate the vaccine, there could be more suits in the future.

"[It] will, in turn, potentially cause more lawsuits by the employees saying, 'We don't want to do it. We don't think it's fair,'" said Shellist.

In the end, it seems most employers surveyed in Houston support the idea of their employees getting their dose, even if they don't plan to require it.

"Part of it is, they want their workforce to be safe and healthy. Part of it is, they recognize that it was the vaccine, which is one of the factors that helped us open the economy," said Jankowski.

The vaccine is currently being used in the U.S. under emergency use authorization from the FDA. Pfizer began its full application for full approval last month.

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