What you need to know
- Google employees have until January 18 to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or successfully apply for exemption.
- Uncompliant employees will face two suspensions before Google terminates their employment.
- Hundreds of Google employees recently signed an anti-vaccine manifesto.
A recent White House executive order put forth a Department of Labor policy that companies with "100 or more employees" must "ensure each of their workers is fully vaccinated or tests for COVID-19 on at least a weekly basis." Employees must receive the vaccine by January 4.
In response to this order, Google circulated a memo — obtained by CNBC detailing its plans to comply with the order and get employees back in the Mountain View office.
According to CNBC, Google will begin contacting unregistered employees on December 18, asking for vaccination proof. On January 18, unvaccinated employees who didn't receive medical or religious exemption will receive "paid administrative leave" for 30 days, followed by six months of "unpaid personal leave" that includes three months of full benefits. After that, if the employee still doesn't comply, Google will terminate them.
Workers whose jobs don't require going into the office at all may be given permission to "permanently work remotely going forward," but most will be expected to return to the office for three days a week.
"As we've stated before, our vaccination requirements are one of the most important ways we can keep our workforce safe and keep our services running," Google told us in a statement. "We're committed to doing everything possible to help our employees who can get vaccinated do so, and firmly stand behind our vaccination policy."
Google has begun this policy in the United States and says it will expand the policy to offices in other countries "as local regulations permit."
The executive order currently is facing legal challenges and could be overturned by the Supreme Court, which could disrupt Google's plans.
Barring legal pressure, many of Google's employees will remain unvaccinated. CNBC recently obtained an internal manifesto signed by at least 600 employees, complaining about the "coercive" mandate that "justifies the principle of division and unequal treatment of Googlers based on their personal beliefs and decisions."
Given Google employs 140,000 workers, the manifesto Googlers make up a small proportion of its team; but even a tiny amount of unvaccinated workers could jeopardize Google's various federal contracts if it doesn't comply, while also ensuring a greater likelihood of future COVID-19 outbreaks on Google's campus.
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Michael spent years freelancing on every tech topic under the sun before settling down on the real exciting stuff: virtual reality, fitness wearables, gaming, and how tech intersects with our world. He's a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves running, D&D, and Star Wars. Find him on Twitter at @Michael_L_Hicks.