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Can SUNY mandate faculty and staff get vaccinated?

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — SUNY joined a growing list of universities mandating students to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but that’s not the case for those teaching or working at SUNY campuses.

“Our conversations with the leadership of SUNY is that there is no intention to mandate vaccines for faculty and staff,” said Frederick Kowal, President of the United University Professions (UUP) union.

UUP is the nation’s largest public higher education union and represents more than 37,000 academic professional faculties on the State University of New York’s 29 state-operated campuses. Kowal says in order to enact that mandate, it would require a lot of negotiations with the union.

“Those negotiations wouldn’t be with SUNY, they’d be with the governor’s office of employee relations,” he said.

Vaccine requirement discussions are a hot topic right now, and many wonder if it is even legal for employers to mandate. News10NBC asked Donald Chesworth, a partner in the Rochester office of Tully Rinckey PLLC, who practices employment law.

“Generally the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has held that an employer can require that the employees be vaccinated,” Chesworth said.

Chesworth noted that employers are building incentive programs to get employees to take action to get vaccinated, such as a bonus, extra vacation days, or at least time off to get the vaccine. Certainly, an employee can object to the mandate for religious or health reasons, but Kowal says he thinks that number will be small at the universities.

“In our conversation with our chapter leaders at all the campuses where we represent the employees, faculty and staff, they’re reporting that there isn’t a groundswell of opposition,” Kowal said.

Kowal believes the with the rate at which any of the faculty and staff are getting vaccinated, he does not believe a vaccine will be mandated for employees.

In a survey within the union, 80% of his union members have said they have either already been vaccinated or intend to get the vaccine, which Kowal says indicates that people are taking the vaccine efforts seriously.

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