Macy’s began requesting the vaccination statuses of employees Tuesday, a sign it was preparing for a potential mandate of vaccinations or weekly testing before a special Supreme Court hearing about such rules Friday.
In a memo sent to employees that were obtained by The New York Times, the retailer — which also owns Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury — told workers in the United States to upload their vaccination statuses to a third-party platform by Jan. 16 “regardless of whether you work in a store, a supply chain facility, an office or are remote/hybrid.” For employees who say they are unvaccinated, Macy’s said it would “review your submission, and you may be contacted by someone from the Colleague Advisory team to discuss next steps.” The company also said it might require proof of negative tests to be uploaded to the same system starting Feb. 16.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hold the hearing this week to assess the legality of two measures from the Biden administration: a vaccine-or-testing mandate aimed at large employers and a vaccination requirement for certain health care workers. The retail industry had pushed back on a new rule issued in November by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requiring companies with 100 or more workers to mandate vaccines or weekly tests, saying it could intensify a labor shortage that many retailers were dealing with during the busy holiday season.
Since then, the omicron variant has sent global coronavirus cases to record levels, although recent data show that people infected with it are far less likely to be hospitalized than those infected with the delta variant, especially if they are vaccinated.
Macy’s said separately Tuesday that it planned to shorten store hours from Monday through Thursday for the rest of January amid the spike and staffing shortages. The news was reported earlier by CNBC.
The National Retail Federation, a major industry lobbying group, said in a statement Tuesday that it “continues to believe that OSHA exceeded its authority in promulgating its vaccine mandate, and we look forward to making that argument before the Supreme Court on Friday.” The group estimated that the order would require 20 million tests a week nationally, based on external data on unvaccinated workers, and that “such testing capacity currently does not exist.”
Still, the memo from Macy’s, which has tens of thousands of employees, suggests that the industry is preparing to carry out the rule. Macy’s also said in its memo that it would adopt the new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that recommended shortening isolation periods for infected people to five days from 10 if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving.
The retailer asked in the fall that its corporate staff either be vaccinated or test negative for COVID-19 before returning to the office, but it did not make the same request of store employees.
When asked about the memo, a Macy’s representative said in an email that the retailer was “working to comply with federal and local guidelines related to COVID.”