LOS ANGELES - As cases of the novel coronavirus surge across the country and the world, health care workers and some state and city employees are being mandated to get COVID-19 vaccines. Now, major companies — including Facebook, Google and United Airlines — are requiring that their employees get their shots in order to return to work.
Lawyers with the Justice Department determined that federal law does not prohibit public agencies and private businesses from mandating COVID-19 vaccines under emergency use authorization according to an opinion posted by the DOJ on Monday, FOX News reported.
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The push to vaccinate comes as hospitals in some areas reach capacity and new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that even vaccinated and unvaccinated people infected by the delta variant of the novel coronavirus carry viral loads that "are actually quite similar."
The CDC recently changed its mask guidelines for people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, citing new information about the ability of the delta variant to spread by those who have been vaccinated.
The CDC is now recommending that vaccinated people wear masks indoors again in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging and that everyone in K-12 schools wear masks, regardless of vaccination status.
Can employers require a COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes. Private companies and government agencies can require their employees to get vaccinated as a condition of working there. Individuals retain the right to refuse, but they have no ironclad right to legal protection.
Here are some of the major companies requiring employees to get inoculated before returning to the office:
The transportation company is requiring all employees to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1, according to a special employee advisory shared with FOX TV Stations.
Any current employees who are not able to provide proof of vaccination will be subject to weekly COVID-19 testing, the company said.
New hires will be required to be fully vaccinated as well.
AT&T will be taking safety measures including the implementation of face coverings and the vaccination of management employees.
"Since the global pandemic began early last year, our employees’ health and safety has been a top priority. We seek advice from medical experts, closely monitor COVID-19 trends [around the country], listen to employee feedback and constantly assess the most effective way to help keep people safe," the company said in a statement to FOX Television Stations. "Given the recent surge in the Delta variant, we are taking additional steps to help ensure the safety of our employees and customers, and provide for effective business continuity in what is a dynamic and uncertain environment."
The company said it will implement the CDC’s new guidance on face coverings for its employees, regardless of vaccination status, who come in to work locations in areas with high or substantial transmission of COVID-19.
AT&T also said it would begin requiring management employees to be vaccinated before entering a work location.
"We will make exceptions for employees who are unable to be vaccinated for medical or other reasons," the company continued.
The major fast-food chain McDonald’s will soon require all corporate employees to get the COVID-19 vaccination prior to returning to the workplace.
"Getting vaccinated remains the single most effective thing we can do to protect ourselves and our communities, which is why McDonald’s is sharing with US staff employees today that all US-based office staff will be required to be vaccinated," an internal note obtained by FOX Television Stations said.
The policy does not apply to franchised restaurants.
In a message Wednesday to all U.S.-based employees, Global Chief People Officer Heidi Capozzi said the company has decided to "transition from strongly encouraging vaccinations to requiring vaccinations for all US-based staff," citing close consultation with its partners at Mayo Clinic and guidance from public health officials in making the decision.
"While we are eager to safely welcome teams back to our offices, we are committed to putting people first, providing a safe work environment and always finding ways to get better together," Capozzi wrote in the note. "Over the last few weeks, however, a resurgence of infections caused by COVID-19 variants has many of us uneasy. Since the Town Hall, we’ve heard from many of you that you would feel more comfortable returning to the office if you had more certainty your colleagues were vaccinated."
McDonald’s will extend the official office re-opening date more than one month from Sept. 7 to Oct. 11 to give everyone the opportunity to become fully vaccinated. Employees who are already fully vaccinated are welcome, and encouraged, to still return to the office on Tuesday, September 7.
Starting in September, Microsoft will require proof of vaccination for all employees, vendors and any guests entering their buildings in the U.S.
"As we have done since the beginning of the pandemic, we continue to closely track new developments and adapt our plans as this situation evolves, keeping employee health and safety top of mind. Based on our continued consultation with health and data experts, our earliest date for the full opening of our U.S. worksites will be no earlier than October 4, 2021. Starting in September, we’ll also require proof of vaccination for all employees, vendors, and any guests entering Microsoft buildings in the U.S., and will have an accommodation process in place for employees. We continue to review the situation on a local basis in each region/country/state where we work and will adjust dates and policies as needed," a company spokesperson told FOX Television Stations.
Meat processer Tyson Foods said Tuesday it will require all of its U.S. employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, becoming one of the first major employers of frontline workers to do so.
Members of its leadership team must be vaccinated by Sept. 24 and the rest of its office workers by Oct. 1. Its frontline workers must be vaccinated by Nov. 1, although the company said the specifics were being negotiated with unions.
Tyson, whose brands include Jimmy Dean and Hillshire Farm, said just under half of its U.S. workforce — about 56,000 employees — have been vaccinated thus far.
The pharmacy chain announced in early August that it would be requiring any employees located in their U.S.-based support offices to be vaccinated by Sept. 30.
Anyone who is unable to get the COVID-19 vaccine will be required to enroll in the company's COVID-19 testing program, according to a company news release.
"As a company committed to health and wellness, our highest priority is ensuring the health and safety of our team members, as well as our customers and patients – and we strongly encourage all of our team members to get fully vaccinated," Walgreens said.
The retail giant's vaccine mandate does not apply to all associates, but the company is requiring all market, regional and divisional associates who work in multiple facilities and all campus office associates to be vaccinated by Oct. 4, unless they have an approved exception. Read more here.
The streaming service said it will requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for anyone working on sets with actors on U.S. productions, according to reports.
Netflix was the first major studio to mandate vaccinations in "Zone A" crews, the sections of film crew workers who come in close contact with talent.
Disney has informed its employees and Cast Members that the company will require all salaried and non-union hourly employees in the U.S. working at any of the company's sites to be fully vaccinated, the company announced Friday.
"At The Walt Disney Company, the safety and well-being of our employees during the pandemic has been and continues to be a top priority. Toward that end, and based on the latest recommendations of scientists, health officials and our own medical professionals that the COVID-19 vaccine provides the best protection against severe infection," the company said in a statement.
Ford said it is now requiring all U.S. employees to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 "prior to any international business travel due to the potential of increased exposure to COVID-19."
"Ford continues to strongly encourage all team members who are medically able to be vaccinated," the company wrote in an email to FOX TV Stations.
Twitter has followed behind other tech giants in taking action to protect employees from the highly contagious delta variant.
The company said in an email to FOX TV Stations that it has closed its offices in San Francisco and New York, effective immediately.
"After careful consideration of the CDC's updated guidelines, and in light of current conditions, Twitter has made the decision to close our opened offices in New York and San Francisco as well as pause future office reopenings, effective immediately," a company spokesperson wrote.
The move comes after workers started returning to the office two weeks ago. However, Twitter announced last year that employees can work from home permanently if they want to.
A representative for the social media giant said in an email to FOX TV Stations on Wednesday that employees who want to return to work on U.S. campuses will be required to get vaccinated for COVID-19.
Facebook’s vice president of people said in a statement "we will have a process for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other reasons and will be evaluating our approach in other regions as the situation evolves. We continue to work with experts to ensure our return to office plans prioritize everyone's health and safety."
The company added that implementation of vaccine mandates would depend on "local conditions and regulations."
A representative for the tech company told FOX TV Stations in an email that Google is extending its voluntary work-from-home period globally from Sept. 1 to Oct. 18. The company added that it will now be "requiring COVID-19 vaccinations as part of our global return-to-office policy."
In a company blog post, Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote, "Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy in the months ahead."
Denver-based Frontier Airlines announced a policy directing all employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 1.
"As we continue to watch the rapid increase of new COVID-19 cases across the United States caused by the Delta variant, I am concerned for the well-being of our team members, their families and friends," said Barry Biffle, Frontier's president and CEO. "Safety is of the utmost importance at Frontier and we need to take every step possible for us to keep our teams safe, protect the operation and protect our passengers."
"The time has come to do what we can to help put an end to COVID-19," Biffle added.
The airline made it clear that employees that choose not to or are unable to get vaccinated will be asked to provide proof of a negative test on a regular basis.
United Airlines will require U.S.-based employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by late October, and maybe sooner – becoming the first major U.S. airline to do so.
United CEO Scott Kirby said he knows some of the company's 67,000 employees will disagree with the decision. But he says it's clear — that everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated.
The airline began requiring new employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 on June 15.
"As we welcome new employees to the company, it’s important we instill in them United’s strong commitment to safety. As part of this commitment, effective for all job offers made after June 15, 2021, we will require any external candidates for U.S.-based jobs to attest that they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by their start date," the company wrote in an email to FOX TV Stations last month.
This story is developing. Check back for more.
FOX News contributed to this report.