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News | September 27, 2021
3 minute read

Warner Partner Jon Kok Interviewed for MiBiz Article on Federal Vaccine Mandate’s Effect on Manufacturing Industry

Earlier this month, President Biden announced a federal vaccine mandate for all U.S. companies with at least 100 employees, which would affect about 80 million workers in the private sector. Workers that decline the vaccine would be required to undergo mandatory weekly testing.

The mandate also applies to any manufacturer that belongs to the federal supply chain, regardless of the company’s size. 

The mandate — which still awaits specific rules by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and is likely to face legal challenges — has rattled a manufacturing industry already grappling with its share of existential issues. The sector is struggling to lure enough people to its workforce while crawling through profound supply chain disruptions and rising costs of goods.

Biden’s mandate could prove particularly problematic for manufacturers already struggling to find enough workers, according to Jon Kok, a partner and co-chair of the Labor and Employment Practice Group at Warner Norcross + Judd LLP in Grand Rapids.

“Just talking to manufacturers, they don’t know what they’re going to do with this,” Kok said. “They’ll push and they’ll inform and try to get everybody to do it, but they just know there is going to be a significant portion of their population that is not going to do it.”

That’s going to put manufacturers in a tough position where they may either have to implement testing — which could prove costly, burdensome and “could be a real nightmare” — or terminate employees who still refuse to get vaccinated, Kok said. Violations of the rule would carry a $14,000 fine. 

“This is the real concern of most of my clients, especially manufacturers,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who aren’t going to do it, and the government telling them they have to is not going to change their mind, so employers are going to be in a very tough position.”

The Michigan Manufacturers Association quickly rebuffed Biden’s announcement earlier this month, voicing clear support for vaccinations while calling the directive a heavy-handed move that takes away decision-making power from business owners.

“We have long supported — both with our membership and publicly — vaccinations,” MMA President and CEO John Walsh told MiBiz. “We believe in it strongly. And, the devil is in the details (of OSHA’s emergency rules). It could be a very costly endeavor for an industry already facing workforce shortages, a broken supply chain … and rising costs for goods. We may have one additional expense that small, medium and large (companies) would have to bear.”

To read the full MiBiz article, click here.

Named Best Lawyers’® Grand Rapids Lawyer of the Year in 2022, 2021 and 2019, Jon specializes in all aspects of labor and employment law. He counsels major public and private corporations on such issues as discrimination and harassment, unfair competition, disability and leave issues and the design and negotiation of executive employment and compensation agreements. To learn more about Jon’s practice, click here.