Vaccine mandate firings cascade as employers face toughest labor market in years

Government mandates, company policies requiring COVID-19 vaccines, lead to thousands of firings

Private companies and public employers are continuing to lay off unvaccinated employees this month, as vaccine mandates proliferate and many employers struggle to fill open jobs in a recovering economy. 

The cascading firings come as the U.S. has 10.6 million job openings, according to the Labor Department, which works out to 0.7 job-seekers per open job. That's a lower ratio than at any point since at least November 2006. 

According to the Labor Department, the labor force participation rate is 1.5 percentage points below its prepandemic February 2020 level. But as COVID-19 cases spike and federal, state and local politicians push hard to increase vaccination rates – often through mandates – many companies are still jettisoning workers because they're not vaccinated. 

Some layoffs are mandatory due to government policies. In October, more than 33,000 health care workers in New York state were fired, retired or placed on unpaid leave because they refused to get vaccinated in accordance with the state's policy. 

In this Oct. 5, 2021, file photo a health care worker fills a syringe with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.

In this Oct. 5, 2021, file photo a health care worker fills a syringe with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.  (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File / AP Images)

USPS REQUESTS TEMPORARY WAIVER FROM BIDEN VACCINE MANDATE, WARNS OF SUPPLY CHAIN DISRUPTION

Others were fully at the company's discretion, like when United Airlines fired more than 230 employees in October, before the details of the Biden administration's vaccine policies were announced. 

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
GOOGL ALPHABET INC. 2,584.66 +45.96 +1.81%
UAL UNITED AIRLINES HOLDINGS INC. 41.43 -0.35 -0.84%
C CITIGROUP INC. 64.75 +0.64 +1.00%

And yet other firing decisions were made technically at a company's discretion but under extreme government pressure. 

Citigroup, for example, is a large company subject to the Biden administration's vaccine mandate that's currently in limbo at the Supreme Court. The company is largely based in New York City where former Mayor Bill de Blasio implemented an even stronger mandate that does not include an option for weekly testing and face- mask wearing for the unvaccinated, as the federal mandate does. 

But rather than wait for a ruling on the federal mandate or have unvaccinated employees work from home, which is an option in New York, the company is set to fire all of its unvaccinated employees this month. The deadline for Citigroup employees to get fully vaccinated is Jan. 14.  

President Biden talks about the newly approved COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 from the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021.

President Biden talks about the newly approved COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 from the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. The Biden administration is pushing multiple major vaccine manda (AP Newsroom)

TEXAS GOV. ABBOTT TO SUE BIDEN ADMIN OVER VACCINE MANDATE FOR NATIONAL GUARD

Google is also planning to fire unvaccinated employees, according to CNBC. The Los Angeles Unified School District laid off almost 500 people last month, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Mayo Clinic in Minnesota fired 700 unvaccinated workers last week, according to the Star Tribune. 

Some employers have at least temporarily suspended vaccine mandates because the firings would make it extremely hard for them to continue to operate. 

Amtrak is one example. It halted its vaccine mandate in December in the face of anticipated service cuts it planned to make in January, which it said would no longer be necessary with the suspended mandate. WTVR reported in November that the Richmond School Board in Virginia also halted its policy of mandatory vaccines.

Yet more workers could be fired if employers reinstate mandates. Even more may lose their jobs if the two major Biden administration vaccine mandates for large employers and health care workers get the green light from the Supreme Court. 

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (center) attends the 9/11 Security Briefing at the One Police Plaza in New York City on Sept. 10, 2021. Hochul backed a vaccine mandate for health care workers in her state.  (Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images / Getty Images)

The number of employees being fired by individual companies often represents just a small percentage of their overall workforce, as vaccine uptake often increases dramatically once workers are faced with the prospect of losing their jobs. 

But with governments and companies across the country laying off those who won't get a vaccine, thousands and thousands of jobs are becoming vacant right as employers are having a difficult time finding workers. 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ON FOX BUSINESS

"With over 10 million job openings, Washington should be creating every incentive to encourage Americans to get back to work," Jessica Anderson, the executive director of the conservative Heritage Action, told Fox News. "Instead, President Biden has laid out a counterproductive economic agenda that encourages Americans to stay home, making it nearly impossible for businesses to employ workers."

Some public officials say, however, that the sacrifice is work it.  

"Look at where we were Aug. 24," New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said in October as tens of thousands of New York health care workers lost their jobs. "With nursing homes, you can see the rate going from 71% to 92%, at least one dose.… Hospitals, 96, up from 77.  I think that the mandates have brought people to the right decision."

FOX Business' Daniella Genovese, Angelo Martin, Lucas Manfredi and Peter Aitken contributed to this report.