ALEXANDRIA, Va.—NACS in a letter yesterday asked U.S. public health agencies to issue statements “emphasizing that state and local rules should not place the burden of verifying vaccination on employees.”
The letter to the heads of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention follows an Oregon Health Department rule that requires private businesses, employers and places of worship to verify the vaccination status of people who don’t wear face masks in their facilities.
“Businesses that directly serve the American public have faced difficult challenges for the past year and a half as the nation has dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic,” NACS said. “As it became clear last year that masks were an important measure to protect against the spread of the virus, many employees were put into even more difficult—and dangerous—positions by state and local policies that attempted to require them to police customer behavior.”
The NACS letter lists several reports detailing how retail employees faced dangerous situations related to mask enforcement over the past year. “Retail and other employees are not equipped to enforce health restrictions and, if they are required to do so, it will not protect them but will subject them to confrontations that put their health and well-being at much greater risk,” the letter states.
The new Oregon policy requires “local businesses to verify the vaccination status of customers,” a policy that “is alarming,” the letter states. “As with mask mandates, requiring employees to confront customers in this way is calculated to lead to anger and violence. Many people feel strongly about their decisions regarding whether or not to get vaccinated. It simply is not the job of employees trying to serve Americans to challenge those beliefs—and that is undoubtedly how many individuals will take questions about vaccination status.
“The businesses across the country that we represent care about the safety and well-being of their employees. …There is no question given the experience with mask policies that putting the onus of verifying vaccination status on employees will put employees at greater risk than all customers going maskless. Policies like Oregon’s will risk the safety and well-being of employees,” the letter states.
“We strongly urge the Centers for Disease Control, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and Department of Health and Human Services to recognize the peril that these types of policies will create for employees and make public statements emphasizing that state and local rules should not place the burden of verifying vaccination on employees,” the letter states.
Joining NACS in the letter are the Asian American Hotel Owners Association; American Hotel & Lodging Association; Energy Marketers of America; FMI, The Food Industry; Association International Franchise Association; National Grocers Association; and the National Retail Federation.
The CDC issued new guidance May 16 indicating it is safe for fully vaccinated people to stop wearing masks in most indoor and outdoor settings, with the exception of health-care facilities, public transportation and certain other settings were localities still require face masks. The CDC considers people fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the single dose of Johnson & Johnson.
NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis, including information about how to educate employees about the vaccines and other vaccine-related human resources advice. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page