Hy-Vee employees unnerved by company communications regarding vaccine policy, Biden executive order

Hy-Vee has created a bit of a stir among its 91,000 employees. A number of the company’s employees have reached out to The Iowa Standard since late last week concerned about what they feel is a vaccine mandate.

Hy-Vee, however, says the company is just preparing for an expected executive order from President Joe Biden. The company has not put in place any vaccine mandate, it says, and has no plans to implement such a mandate unless Biden’s executive order requires it.

This video was part of communications from the company that has created heartburn for some employees.

Right away, Aaron Weise (President, Digital Retail, Co-Chief Operating Officer) tells employees they’ve probably heard President Biden and his administration has issued an executive order related to COVID-19 vaccination status and requirements for employers.

“The order requires that employers verify the vaccination status of their employees,” Weise said. “If an employee has not been vaccinated, they will be required to take a COVID test each week and provide a negative test result in order to come to work.”

Georgia Van Gundy (Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer, Chief Customer Officer) then acknowledges the company has not received the final guidance from OSHA, including the date the requirement will go into place.

“As a company, we have a number of questions related to the new regulation and our government relations team is working with state and federal officials to gather the most up-to-date information,” she said. “In anticipation of this new regulation, we need to determine the vaccination status of our employees.”

As The Iowa Standard previously reported, Hy-Vee needs to have an idea of how many COVID tests it will need to have each week and currently doesn’t have an idea of how many of its 91,000 employees are vaccinated.

A number of Hy-Vee employees have told The Iowa Standard the policy sure seems like a vaccine mandate of sorts being put in place by the company.

According to a communication sent to its employees, Hy-Vee told them they are taking “proactive steps” in preparation for the proposed federal vaccine mandate. The company said it will be required to provide the government documentation that they are collecting vaccination status from employees.

One employee provided The Iowa Standard what they said is a copy of the company’s flu shot consent form.

“I understand that if I experience any side effects, it will be my responsibility to follow up with my physician at my expense. I hereby release Hy-Vee, its officers, employees and agents from any and all liability that might arise from the vaccination on behalf of myself, my heirs and personal representatives,” the form says.

Employees are not required to provide the information, however, if they do not submit proof of vaccination they will be considered unvaccinated and forced to undergo weekly testing.

“By Oct. 22 at Hy-Vee we have to show our papers or be tested weekly,” another employee told The Iowa Standard.

Another employee sent an email from Natalie McGee (Assistant Vice President, Human Resources, Chariton) that was apparently sent to all distribution center employees.

“Federal regulations require employers to verify vaccination status of its employees,” the email said.

Employees were asked to bring their vaccination cards so they could be scanned. Any employee who doesn’t provide proof of vaccination will be considered unvaccinated and, according to the email, undergo weekly COVID testing “starting on a date to be determined later.”

The message is to be announced at every pre-shift meeting between Oct. 15 and Oct. 22 at warehouses. Translators are to be made available for Spanish-speaking employees.

Here is footage from the rally outside the Chariton distribution center:

Hy-Vee’s senior vice president of communications, Tina Potthoff, said the company still is not issuing a vaccine mandate.
“In our correspondence to employees, we fully outline that this is not a vaccine mandate and that no additional steps will go into place unless this becomes a federal requirement,” she said. “If our employees have questions, we continue to encourage them to reach out to our HR department. It’s imperative that people read or listen to the entire messages that we have sent to our employees and not pick out certain lines from our communication to create a narrative that doesn’t exist when pieced together.”

Author: Jacob Hall