Citigroup has just become the first Wall Street megabank to give the anti-vaxxers among its 70K employees an ultimatum: either get vaccinated (and turn over the appropriate proper documentation), or find somewhere else to work.
As Wall Street banks struggle to find a strategy to bring workers back to the office without putting them at risk of getting COVID, the bank has decided that Citi employees who don’t comply with this mandate by Jan. 14 will be placed on unpaid leave, and their last day of employment will come at the end of the month, according to a message to Citigroup staff seen by Bloomberg.
This is by far the most restrictive requirement among Wall Street firms. But whether or not it will help the financial services industry bring workers back to the office more quickly remains to be seen.
On top of this, Citi is holding bonus payments over workers’ heads, saying that any employees who refuse the vaccine also won’t receive bonus payments for 2021 unless they sign a legal document giving up their right to sue Citigroup, presumably for wrongful termination since the legality of employer vaccine mandates is still being chewed over by SCOTUS.
Workers who are forced out by the vaccination policy can apply for other jobs at Citi in the future, but they shouldn’t bother if they don’t “see the light” and get vaccinated.
“You are welcome to apply for other roles at Citi in the future as long as you are compliant with Citi’s vaccination policy,” the company said in the memo.
According to Bloomberg, more than 90% of Citigroup’s staffers in the US have already been vaccinated. Any workers who haven’t gotten their shots are welcome to apply for religious or medical exemptions. Although it’s not clear what those applying for an exemption will do during the period between the start of the vaccine mandate, and whenever Citi finishes analyzing all the applications for an exemption.
Unsurprisingly, Citi is already facing public backlash for its decision to push out anti-vaxxers. One Twitter user questioned if Citi would take responsibility for any vaccine-induced medical issues (like the ‘almost harmless’ inflammation of the heart that has been associated with mRNA vaccines and younger users).
And what’s next? Will Citibank extend this mandate to its vaccinated customers?
will @Citibank be requiring all US employees to also obtain the 4th booster shot? Is @Citibank taking liability for any and all potential adverse events (alebit very rare)? Will @Citibank also be expanding this vaccine mandate to its customers and those with citi credit cards?
— cryptobacool (@cryptobacool) January 7, 2022
One Citi worker complained on LinkedIn that this policy feels like a huge “overreach” since most of his direct reports don’t work in the same state as him.
“I’ve been sitting at home for two years now, I rarely go to the office, my direct reports are states away — this felt like a huge overreach,” said George Pagano, who spent five years in Citigroup’s operations and technology division before departing in November due to the mandate.
“When it comes to promoting the company at the expense of having to threaten to fire people the week after Christmas, it just seemed to be a bit too much.”
Finally, Citi is imposing its mandate as constitutionality of vaccine mandates is still debatable. As one source told Bloomberg, most companies are waiting to see how SCOTUS rules.
“It’s extremely onerous for employers,” Paul said, noting challenges in obtaining tests and tracking the data.
“Because of these burdens, there are a lot of employers that are just waiting to see what the Supreme Court does before they go ahead and roll out their plans.”
While Citi’s office workers must adhere to the Jan. 14 deadline, workers in the company’s office branches will have a little more leeway. To try and make the mandate more palatable, Citi has taken measures including bringing in medical experts to educate staff, holding town halls with human-resources leaders and handing out prizes for vaccinated workers. It also offered paid time off for workers hoping to get the shot.
Earlier this week, Goldman Sachs became the latest Wall Street megabank to abandon its plans to return employees to its offices.
Citi has already faced legal challenges over its vaccine mandate, which it first announced back in November after President Biden called on corporations to coerce their workers into getting the jabs. Of course, the rate of vaccination will differ dramatically by state, as many workers in New York are already facing pressure from the government to get the vaccines, while workers in Florida and Texas have been afforded much more leniency.
Unfortunately, the world has learned over the last year that the vaccines aren’t nearly as effective as Pfizer and Moderna (and President Biden) originally led the public to believe. So hopefully whoever came up with this idea at Citi isn’t disappointed when it has no impact on the number of workers afflicted by virus.