Univision Communications is the latest broadcaster to require all its employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. With infections and hospitalizations on the rise, a fully FDA-approved vaccine available, and a new Presidential mandate, more broadcasters are expected to follow suit in the weeks and months ahead.

At the heart of Biden's new plan is directing the Labor Department to require all businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure their workers are either vaccinated or tested once a week. While that gives them a choice, “most businesses assessing those two options will conclude that a vaccine mandate – with the legally-required exemptions – will be cheaper and easier to implement than a weekly testing regimen,” Scott Flick, a Communications partner at Pillsbury, told Inside Radio.

COVID-19 tests will be in even higher demand after the President’s new rules go into effect. “Businesses that risk up to a $14,000 per employee fine for failing to test unvaccinated employees each and every week may find that they don’t want the added headache of worrying about securing an adequate number of test kits each week for their unvaccinated employees,” said Flick.

Small radio companies that employ fewer than 100 workers aren’t affected by Biden’s new policy. And there will almost certainly be legal challenges. “However, if having a vaccinated workforce becomes the new ‘standard of care’ for businesses defending against lawsuits from employees claiming to have caught COVID-19 at work, it does put pressure on all broadcasters, including those with less than 100 employees, to seriously consider their policies as well,” Flick noted.

With many workforces deeply divided on the issue of vaccine mandates, the President’s announcement provides some legal cover for larger businesses implementing mandates. “The courts have generally upheld such mandates as long as these escape valves are in place,” Flick noted.

While some station owners want to stay clear of the controversial issue and are hoping that most of their employees decide to get vaccinated on their own, that may no longer be an option. “It is becoming increasing difficult for business owners to stay uninvolved, as there will be employees on both sides of the issue—those that don’t want to be required to get vaccinated, and those that are appalled that their employer is asking them to come back to the studio without ensuring that everyone they encounter there will be vaccinated,” Flick suggested. “Staying out of the fray is not possible.”

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