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Small business in Columbus requiring COVID vaccine for its employees

Businesses that do not fall under the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate weigh the risk of losing staff if requiring a COVID-19 vaccination.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It’s already hard to hire more people as the pandemic lingers through another summer. Businesses are trying to avoid deterring someone from applying for a job, or even worse, cause an employee to leave a position.

Vaccine mandates could be the latest debate that could cause an employer to second guess a vaccination requirement. The Biden Administration announced this month a mandate for larger businesses, with 100 or more employees, but for smaller businesses, it forces owners to choose.

Wolf's Ridge Brewery in Columbus decided this week to implement a vaccine requirement. Co-owner Bob Szuter says only 5% of his 72 person staff is not vaccinated.

“Still five percent has a disproportionately large impact on the rest of the employees and the business overall,” said Szuter. “We took a look back at it and said this has to happen."

Szuter says even though their staffing levels are down about 10% through the pandemic, it was still worth the decision.

"If we do lose those people, that's OK for the benefit of our business at the end of the day,” said Szuter. “Hopefully it doesn't happen and it doesn't look like it will.”

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce says its members have had to make tough decisions over implementing a vaccine mandate.

“Certainly there are a lot of employers that say I would never require my employees to be vaccinated. That's their choice to make,” said Keith Lake, the vice president of government affairs for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. “But there are also a lot of employers that whether or not they would like to potentially require a vaccine recognize they are already struggling to fill jobs. They already have workforce shortages.”

Lake says they are hearing confusion among Ohio businesses about which rules to follow, when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration writes the federal mandate and if the Ohio House passes HB 248 which would limit an employers' rights with vaccination rules.

“All we can say right now is conduct business as usual,” said Lake. “You can require employees to be vaccinated if you want to, that's the current state of the law, you don't have to. As we believe it should be up to the employers to decide whether or not they want to require vaccines or any other health safety protocols in their workplace.”

The Ohio Manufacturers’ Association told 10TV it has concerns that a vaccine mandate could result in workers quitting. The OMA says right now there are an estimated 30,000 manufacturing jobs open in Ohio.

“The Ohio Manufacturers’ Association supports the right of employers to determine their own policies for the workplace. Regardless of the level of government – federal, state, or local – businesses should neither be required nor prevented from requiring the vaccination,” said Jamie Karl the managing director of communications services. “However, several members have expressed concerns that the federal mandate may actually hinder efforts to vaccinate the unvaccinated – while adding to employers’ liability, costs, and workforce shortages.”

Karl says the OMA does support COVID-19 vaccination, but not a mandate.

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