Large employers may benefit from Biden’s mandate according to ISU professor

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BLOOMINGTON-NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — Many large employers in Bloomington-Normal are still unsure about how President Biden’s newest mandate might affect them.

Last week, the President announced all businesses that employ more than 100 people must require staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing.

In Bloomington-Normal, that includes companies such as State Farm, COUNTRY Financial, Bridgestone and Ferrero, to list a few.

While some employers like hospitals, schools, and colleges have already mandated vaccinations for employees, many private businesses may have been reluctant to do so, according to Dr. Heather Jia at Illinois State University.

“That was the wonderful thing about this mandate, I would argue, is it provides this cover,” Jia said. “The primary concerns, which were legitimate concerns, were if we take the leap and charge ahead to protect our employees and have mandates, do we need to concern ourselves with employees going to competitors?”

Jia, an associate professor of management at ISU and human resources expert said there’s still a lot of unknowns with how the mandate will affect businesses.

“I think a lot of that will become more clear when the department of OSHA releases its mandate particulars,” Jia said.

WMBD reached out to multiple employers in McLean County that employ more than 100 people and heard back from State Farm, COUNTRY Financial and Bridgestone.

State Farm spokesperson Gina Morss-Fischer said the company will not speak on camera, but issued a statement that acknowledged the President’s mandate.

It reads:

We are aware of the recent announcement about vaccination and testing standards for employers with more than 100 employees. When the Department of Labor issues the proposed regulation, we will analyze it to better understand the impact at State Farm. We will share updates with employees when we know more.” – State Farm

COUNTRY Financial Illinois spokesperson Chris Coplan said employees returned to the Bloomington office last week, Aug. 30, under the new flexible work schedule, allowing eligible employees to work remotely two days a week.

Coplan added that COUNTRY Financial and the Illinois Farm Bureau continue to encourage all employees to get the COVID-19 vaccination and are continuing to monitor all guidance regarding COVID-19.

“As we review future guidance from the Department of Labor related to the President’s plan, our commitment to the safety of our employees, representatives, members and clients remains our focus,” Coplan said.

Bridgestone spokesperson Emily Weaver sent a statement on behalf of Bridgestone Americas that reads:

“The well-being and safety of all Bridgestone employees remains the company’s most important value. We will be assessing the new vaccine action plan announced by the Biden Administration and will communicate to our employees once we’ve finalized a clear path forward. Bridgestone has been a strong advocate of our teammates getting vaccinated, including strongly encouraging vaccinations through a $100 vaccine support payment, on-site vaccination events and by providing constant educational information and resources to employees. We are proud of the extraordinary job our teammates have done throughout the pandemic to keep each other safe.” – Bridgestone Americas Inc.

Jia said businesses shouldn’t expect this to be done immediately as things like this take time.

“This is going to take two, three, four months to come to fruition,” Jia said.

Businesses that fail to comply with the mandate can face thousands of dollars in fines per employee.

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