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Tyson Offers Workers Pay Incentive For Off-Shift Vaccinations

By Max Kutner · February 17, 2021, 7:03 PM EST

Tyson will offer workers up to four hours of regular pay if they get novel coronavirus vaccinations outside of work hours, the meat processing giant said Wednesday, joining a growing list of companies offering such incentives.

Tyson Foods Inc. said the policy comes after the company began offering on-site vaccinations at its plants in three states, and the perk is meant to encourage workers to get their vaccinations outside their shifts and through other means.

"This incentive is an additional way we can encourage our frontline workers to receive the vaccination," Johanna Söderström, Tyson's executive vice president and chief human resources officer, said in a statement Wednesday. "We're ready to vaccinate more of our people, especially through the free, on-site vaccination program we've developed. However, vaccine availability continues to vary by state."

Several hundred Tyson team members have already received vaccinations, and the company expected 1,000 more workers would do so in the coming days, the company said.

Tyson's on-site vaccinations are at plants in Illinois, Missouri and Virginia, and the company said it would expand elsewhere when more doses become available.

"I appreciate the company's efforts to secure vaccines for us," Tim Adams, a Tyson worker in North Carolina, said in a statement by the company. "I'm in a high-risk category due to my health, so for me it was an easy decision to get vaccinated."

Tyson joins a growing list of companies that are offering workers pay for getting vaccines. Trader Joe's, Aldi and Amtrak are offering two hours of pay, and Dollar General is offering four hours.

Other meat processors, such as JBS USA and Pilgrim's Pride Corp., are giving out $100 bonuses as an incentive for workers to get vaccinated.

Legal experts have said that incentives for vaccinations must abide by anti-bias laws and that people who object to vaccinations might allege discrimination. For that reason, the experts have said employers could be on safer ground by offering paid time instead of monetary incentives.

In early February, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Restaurant Association and dozens of other business groups asked the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for guidance on vaccination incentives.

The incentives also come as health and legal experts question whether employers could require workers to get the vaccine, in which case employers might have to pay for vaccination time and bargain with workers over the terms.

Unions have called for more access to the vaccine, including the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents some 22,000 Tyson workers.

A UFCW spokesperson said in email to Law360 on Wednesday, "UFCW is working closely with Tyson and many other industry leaders to strengthen vaccine access for meatpacking workers across the country."

Tyson's vaccination efforts and incentives come after food processing plants were virus hotspots early in the pandemic. The families of at least three Tyson workers sued the company after the workers died from COVID-19, the respiratory ailment caused by the novel coronavirus.

A Tyson spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

--Additional reporting by Marco Poggio, Braden Campbell, Anne Cullen, Alexis Shanes, Jon Steingart and Rosie Manins. Editing by Neil Cohen.

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