Dollar General will pay its 157,000 workers to get COVID-19 vaccine

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GOODLETTSVILLE, Tenn. (NEXSTAR) — Dollar General employees will receive four hours of pay if they choose to get the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

The retailer is one of the first large employers to offer employees pay to receive the vaccine. The company has 16,720 retail locations in 47 states and more than 157,000 employees.

The nation’s overall death toll from COVID-19 has eclipsed 380,000, according to Johns Hopkins University, and is closing in fast on the number of Americans killed in World War II — about 407,000. Confirmed infections have topped 22.8 million.

Can employers make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory? Yes, with some exceptions.

Experts say employers can require employees to take safety measures, including vaccination. That doesn’t necessarily mean you would get fired if you refuse, but you might need to sign a waiver or agree to work under specific conditions to limit any risk you might pose to yourself or others.

“Employers generally have wide scope” to make rules for the workplace, said Dorit Reiss, a law professor who specializes in vaccine policies at the University of California Hastings College of the Law. “It’s their business.”

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has allowed companies to mandate the flu and other vaccines and has also indicated they can require COVID-19 vaccines.

There are exceptions. For example, people can request exemptions for medical or religious reasons.

And even though employers can require vaccinations, there are reasons they might not want to.

Tracking compliance with mandatory vaccination would be an administrative burden, said Michelle S. Strowhiro, an employment adviser and lawyer at McDermott Will & Emery. Employers would also have to manage exemption requests, not to mention legal claims that might arise.

As a result, many employers will likely strongly encourage vaccination without requiring it, Strowhiro said.

More than 9.3 million Americans have received their first shot of the vaccine, or less than 3% of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is well short of the hundreds of millions who experts say will need to be inoculated to vanquish the outbreak.

Also, an increasing number of states have begun offering vaccinations to the next group in line — senior citizens — with the minimum age varying from place to place at 65, 70 or 75. Up to now, health care workers and nursing home residents have been given priority in most places.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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