‘We have to protect our clientele’: Some Houston employers strongly encouraging staff to get COVID-19 vaccine

The possibility of vaccination requirements are starting to look different for many businesses

HOUSTON – With all adults in Texas now able to sign up for the COVID vaccine, many employers are coming up with plans to encourage their employees to get vaccinated.

Susan Finn, the owner of Beautique Day Spa and Salon, said there are no splitting hairs when it comes to her employees getting vaccinated

“What we would hope is that everyone gets vaccinated,” Finn told KPRC 2. “We are a very large salon. We are 22,000-square-feet and it’s just we have to protect everybody.”

For now, at the Rice Village salon, it’s not a mandate for employees to get the vaccine, but they are strongly encouraging it.

“We, at this point, have 77 employees and we have hundreds of people that are in and out of this salon every week,” Finn said. “We have to protect everybody. We have to protect our employees. We have to protect our clientele and we have to protect our business. Those all go into the whole mix.”

According to a survey done by the PNC Financial Services Group, of about 150 small to medium-size businesses in Houston questioned, 43% said they would require employees to get the vaccine. Thirty-six percent said they would assist and educate them and 20% said they would offer incentives to employees who choose to get vaccinated.

“If an employer feels like mandating that their employees take the vaccine is in their customers’ best interest, then they are entitled to do so,” said Houston attorney Sophia George. “Unless there is some sort of qualifying disability or religious exemption as defined by the EEOC, it’s going to be difficult for an employee at least in Texas to dispute that and to push back.”

George said in the case of a disability or a religious exemption, employers will need to make accommodations for their staff.

“What that might look like is if you are a cashier and you are exempt under the ADA, maybe instead of working at the front of the register to work at the back,” she said.

As far as something like a vaccine passport for patrons to get into certain restaurants, concerts, or certain businesses, George said that’s going to be difficult to enforce.

“There are probably going to be establishments that might try, but if they do I would suspect there would be some litigation that comes out of it,” George said.

We’ve checked with several local businesses and most, for now, said they are strongly encouraging their employees to get vaccinated, but not requiring it at this time.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s office said the Mayor is doing the same thing; encouraging municipal employees to get the vaccine, but not requiring it.