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Stations Eye Vaccine Mandates as Recovery Wobbles

Now that at least the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has received full authorization from the federal Food and Drug Administration, businesses across the state are increasingly resorting to vaccine mandates for employees as a way to drive a return to some sense of normalcy.

This comes as the economic recovery is increasingly jeopardized by persistently high numbers of infections and hospitalizations driven by the Delta variant, vaccine skeptics, and premature relaxing of public safety measures by government officials last spring.

Three Radio station groups with a significant presence in Texas are among those that have implemented mandates for their employees, including Radio One, Cumulus and Beasley, which owns the Houston Outlaws Esports team, as reported by Inside Radio.

TAB’s FCC legal counsel Scott Flick with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman notes that, while no one wants to have to fight with their employees over vaccines, “it’s at least one fight and you’re done, as opposed to continually policing masks, distancing, etc., and still ending up with a less effective result.”

But he emphasizes that stations need to tread carefully.

“The key thing to remember on mandates is to be enforceable, there generally need to be exemptions available for medical and religious grounds,” he said.

Referencing a case in Florida where a chiropractor is handing out signed medical exemption letters in blank that people can just pick up off the counter and insert their name into, Flick suggested stations may need to be more specific as to what someone must show for a medical exemption. A “note from a doctor” may seem like an adequate standard, but apparently not.

TAB’s general counsel, Stacy Allen with Jackson Walker, notes that the provision in Governor Greg Abbott’s July 29 executive order which addresses proof of vaccination that businesses receiving state tax dollars applies to consumers, not employees.

Questions? Contact TAB’s Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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