Vaccination mandate: These businesses penalize unvaccinated employees

Workers have been suspended or are facing health care surcharges

Some employees returning to work are receiving separate benefits depending on whether or not they are vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Several airlines and some major companies are instituting health care penalties or suspensions without pay if workers choose not to receive one of the widely available, free vaccinations. 

FOX Business is tracking some of the companies enforcing the non-vaccination penalties. 


Alaska Airlines

Alaska and Horizon Airlines, sister companies under Alaska Air, are "looking closely" at a vaccine mandate for their 23,000 employees and are even offering $200 to any employee who can show proof of vaccination.

Conversely, unvaccinated employees will have to follow a new testing protocol, face additional layers of masking and social distancing guidelines, be required to undergo a vaccine education program, and will no longer receive special pay for coronavirus-related leave.

"We believe having as many people as possible vaccinated is the best path for protection against COVID-19 and we will continue to strongly encourage our employees to be vaccinated," the airline told FOX Business in a statement. "As of today, 75% of Alaska and Horizon employees who have shared their vaccination status are vaccinated."

"As we have throughout the pandemic, we’ll continue to adjust our safety protocols as we learn," the statement concluded.

American Airlines

American Airlines will similarly end pandemic-relief aid for unvaccinated employees who contract the coronavirus.

Beyond Oct. 1, employees who are not vaccinated and have to miss work due to coronavirus infection or exposure will be required to use earned sick time or medical leave for any time missed. 

"We have heard from many team members that the full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gives them additional peace of mind when they were previously hesitant to get vaccinated," the Texas-based airline said in a memo to its employees.  

Getty Images / iStock

American Airlines is not mandating the vaccine but is strongly encouraging its employees to get vaccinated. Employees will have to submit their vaccine card by Oct. 1 or face the unvaccinated penalties. 

Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines will also require unvaccinated employees to pay a sizeable surcharge each month.

Starting Nov. 1, employees who refuse to get inoculated and are on Delta’s health care plan will be forced to pay an additional $200.  


In a memo sent to employees last month, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said the surcharge was "necessary," noting it costs the carrier on average $50,000 per person who is hospitalized for coronavirus-related reasons. 

"This surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company," Bastian said.

The Atlanta-based airline also said it will stop extending pay protection to unvaccinated workers who miss time due to the coronavirus on Sept. 30.

In the memo, Bastian applauded the Delta staff for mostly being vaccinated (around 74% of its workforce were vaccinated at the time of the memo) but cautioned the "aggressiveness of the variant means we need to get many more of our people vaccinated, and as close to 100% as possible." 

"I know some of you may be taking a wait and see approach, or waiting for full FDA approval. With this week’s announcement that the FDA has granted full approval for the Pfizer vaccine, the time for you to get vaccinated is now," he added.

Immediately following the announcement of the surcharge, a reported 4,000 Delta employees got coronavirus vaccine shots.

Delta Air Lines’ chief health officer Henry Ting told a group of reporters at a briefing with the Infectious Diseases Society of America that nearly 20% of the 20,000 remaining unvaccinated employees received at least one shot of the vaccine.

The company’s total vaccination then jumped to almost 78%.

United Airlines

United Airlines is also penalizing employees who fail to receive at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

A new policy that takes effect Oct. 2 will place any pilot, flight attendant or customer service agent who is not inoculated on temporary, unpaid leave, according to a memo sent to employees by Kirk Limacher, United's vice president of human resources.


"There are close to 100,000 people in the hospital, and an average of 1,500 people are dying from COVID every day," Limacher said. "All these statistics apply almost exclusively to the unvaccinated."

"Given the dire statistics listed above, we can no longer allow unvaccinated people back into the workplace until we better understand how they might interact with our customers and their vaccinated co-workers," he added. 

The mandate provides for some religious exemptions. After a review, if an exemption is approved, the employee will face indefinite unpaid leave starting Oct. 2. If not approved, the individual will be required to get vaccinated within five weeks of the decision or risk termination.

All of the airline’s 67,000 employees in the U.S. must get their first shot no later than Sept. 27. The memo states any person who refuses to do so will be "separated from the company." 

"Given the large number of people who work at and travel through our operation daily, we need to do everything we can to ensure their safety," Limacher said. "As we said when we introduced our vaccination policy, everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated."  

Broward County, Florida

Broward County government employees have been offered a one-time bonus of $500 if they can show proof of their vaccination status but those who remain unvaccinated will have to pay.

Unvaccinated employees will seemingly foot the benefit as they will have a $20 surcharged tacked on to each of their paychecks, along with a weekly coronavirus test, County Mayor Steve Geller announced Wednesday

"We’re trying to walk a tightrope," Geller said, regarding the program’s intent to boost vaccinate rates. "[But] those who have chosen to endanger the community."

The mayor did not reveal how many of the approximately 6,800 city employees have been vaccinated.

Indiana University Health

Indiana University Health, a health care system that is one of the largest employers in the state, issued a health mandate requiring all employees to receive at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine by a deadline of Sept. 1. 

Employees that refused to receive the vaccine or missed that deadline have been suspended from returning to work.

A hospital spokesperson did not reveal how many of their 36,000 employees have been suspended but said the figure has dwindled to under 300 since the deadline was implemented. 

MGM Resorts International

In Las Vegas, MGM Resorts International has discontinued paid time off for unvaccinated employees that have to quarantine after infection or exposure to the coronavirus.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)

In New York, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will also be penalizing unvaccinated employees in an effort to boost vaccination rates.

The MTA announced that it would be pulling the $500,000 death benefit for unvaccinated employees. Conversely, surviving family members of vaccinated workers who die to the virus will receive a lump-sum payment and three years of health insurance benefits. 

MTA’s Chief People Officer Paul Fama sent a notice to employees alerting them of the new policy, that included a "valid documented exception" for employees who opt out of the vaccine.

Of the company’s 68,200 employees, 171 have died to the coronavirus so far. About 70% of staffers across the MTA’s divisions have been vaccinated so far, including 89% for Construction & Development workers, under 60% for Bridges and Tunnels, Long Island Rail Road, and New York City Transit employees, and 55% for subway and bus workers.

A crowded MTA subway train heading toward Queens, New York City, during the coronavirus outbreak. (Photo by Braulio Jatar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

"It is more important than ever to consider how getting vaccinated not only protects you but also your family," Fama said in the memo.

He added: "We highly encourage all our team members to get vaccinated — it’s safe, effective and one of the surest things we can all do to prevent serious illness or death from COVID-19."

MTA Chairperson and CEO Janno Lieber said the transit system was achieving success in vaccinating its employees. 

"We are incentivizing people to get vaccinated, so we’ve made a lot of progress," Lieber told THE CITY Friday. "It’s just like the rest of society — there are people who have questions and, for whatever reason, have elected not to get vaccinated."

Since the new mandate, MTA spokesperson Tim Minton told The New York Times that only three employees have died to the coronavirus. He did not disclose whether the individuals were vaccinated.

Ochsner Health

Employees at Ochsner Health in Louisiana, the state's largest health care system, have been tasked with getting a coronavirus vaccine by Oct. 29 or face termination.

"They’ll be suspended for 30 days and during that period of time, they’ll get an opportunity to be able to get vaccinated, if not if they haven’t met a religious or medical exemption then they would be asked to leave Ochsner," said Ochsner Health CEO Warner Thomas.

"We don’t want to lose anybody, but I don’t really feel that it will have a material impact on our ability to care for our patients," he added.

The chief executive officer announced the mandate just before President Biden announced the nationwide mandate for all employees at health care facilities to be vaccinated. Refusal to do so could result in the company losing Medicare and Medicaid. 

"I don’t think this is something that health care organizations are going to be able to avoid. I think it’s something that’s going to be done, it’s going to have to be done and frankly, it should be done to keep folks safe," said Thomas.


As of Aug. 31, PeaceHealth employees in Lane County, Oregon, who did not receive a coronavirus vaccine were placed on unpaid administrative leave.

This includes 270 caregivers at four Lane County hospitals and 150 caregivers at clinics and other facilities. 

Some of these employees have had the option to work remotely but those who do not have that option, like medical assistant Christina Williams, have been forced to use their limited paid time off hours.


"It took all I had not to just break down in front of everybody because it was really sad," Williams told KEZI. "I made it through the end of the day, and I gave my co-worker a hug and I just lost it."

US Army

Soldiers enlisted in the United States Army are also facing punishments if they refuse to get vaccinated, according to a new plan announced Tuesday in response to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s order requiring all service members to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

Penalties could include discharge or relief of duty.

"While Soldiers who refuse the vaccine will first be counseled by their chain of command and medical providers, continued failure to comply could result in administrative or non-judicial punishment – to include relief of duties or discharge," the memorandum read.

U.S. Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle said soldiers have until Dec. 15, 2021, to get fully vaccinated.  


"This is quite literally a matter of life and death for our Soldiers, their families, and the communities in which we live," he said. "Case counts and deaths continue to be concerning as the Delta variant spreads, which makes protecting the force through mandatory vaccination a health and readiness priority for the total Army."

Despite more than 208 million Americans having at least one dose of the vaccines, the U.S. is seeing about 300% more new COVID-19 infections a day, about two and-a-half times more hospitalizations, and nearly twice the number of deaths compared to the same time last year. 

Some 80 million Americans remain unvaccinated.