By Tom Ozimek
Intel has told its employees in an internal memo that it will, starting Jan. 4, require employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or receive a medical or religious exemption, as the company moves to comply with the Biden administration’s federal contractor mandate, multiple media outlets have reported.
The staff message from the chipmaker—Oregon’s biggest employer—was cited by Willamette Week and The Oregonian, with the outlets reporting that the memo indicates the company is imposing the mandate in line with a federal vaccine mandate for government contractors, of which Intel is one.
Intel did not immediately respond to a request from The Epoch Times to confirm the vaccination policy. But Intel spokeswoman Chelsea Hughes told Willamette Week on Nov. 11 that the company’s decision to press ahead with its new requirement was based on the Biden administration’s federal contractor mandate.
“As it has done throughout the pandemic, Intel will continue to comply with all government requirements in the countries in which it operates,” Hughes told the outlet.
President Joe Biden on Sept. 9 announced vaccine mandates for federal workers, federal contractors, and most health care staff. That mandate is different from a separate vaccine requirement for businesses with 100 or more employees, as the private employer mandate has a testing opt-out, while the federal contractor rule allows opt-outs only on the basis of a medical or religious exemption.
The Intel memo indicates the new policy applies to all U.S.-based staff and international employees on business trips to the United States.
“This guidance applies to all U.S. Intel workers, regardless of if they are working on-site or at home,” the email stated, according to Willamette Week. “It also applies to all employees traveling for work to the U.S. It applies regardless of the amount of time you are working at an Intel campus.”
According to The Oregonian, the memo says Intel is still working out a process for religious and medical exemptions and that it “will provide free and convenient testing for employees who have not provided proof of vaccination” by the Jan. 4 deadline. Intel also said in the memo that it has asked the Biden administration to extend the deadline to later in the first quarter of 2022.
The memo also indicates that Intel will be introducing new “vaccine-related incentives and sweepstakes” to boost vaccine uptake among staff, and that it would continue its “‘thank you’ payments” to employees who get the shot by the end of the year.
In August, Intel said it wasn’t requiring employees to get the shot but that it was recommending they do so, while offering cash and voucher bonuses worth up to $350 to those that did.
“I’m a data guy, and the data shows that vaccination is a critical element in ending this pandemic,” CEO Pat Gelsinger wrote to employees in a memo, as per The Oregonian.
Gelsinger added in the memo that, starting Oct. 1, Intel staff would have to be vaccinated to be eligible for business travel and to attend external events, such as conferences.
Numerous lawsuits have been filed against the Biden administration over vaccine mandates for private employers and federal contractors. A coalition of business groups—including key supply chain stakeholders representing industries like foodservice, trucking, and warehousing—have called on Biden for flexibility in mandates or risk exacerbating the supply chain crunch.
A federal court in Louisiana has blocked the Biden administration’s private business mandate, which was promulgated as an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The court cited “grave statutory and constitutional issues” and put the OSHA rule on temporary hold until legal arguments can be heard in the case.
Administration officials have said they’re confident the OSHA rule will withstand the flurry of legal challenges and have filed an appeal asking a federal court to lift the order blocking the mandate.