NS requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all employees

Written by Mary Beth Luczack, Executive Editor, Railway Age
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Norfolk Southern (NS) on Oct. 20 notified all employees that it will require them to receive the COVID-19 vaccination by Dec. 8.
Norfolk Southern

Our sister magazine, Railway Age, reported yesterday on the NS employee vaccination story. Due to the significance of this announcement, we're reproducing their article below.

The move stems from an Executive Order and associated guidance mandating that federal contractors require vaccinations for all employees.

“We haul tanks, Humvees, and jet fuel for the U.S. Department of Defense and deliver coal to the federally run Tennessee Valley Authority,” NS wrote in an internal memo to employees, obtained by Railway Age. “After reviewing the order carefully to be certain, we determined that we are covered under the mandate.”

NS follows Union Pacific (UP) in taking action. UP on Oct. 13 announced on its website that it is “complying with the executive order requiring employees of federal contractors be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8.” Now, UP and its unions are suing each other over that requirement.

Railway Age reproduces the NS memo, in full, below:

Federal Vaccine Mandate Will Require Change in NS Policy

“From the start of the pandemic, we’ve put a priority on maintaining safe and healthy workplaces as we pull together to keep our economy moving.  We’ve encouraged employees to follow guidance from public health experts regarding vaccination, but we haven’t mandated vaccination as some companies have done. Our employees have diverse and often deeply held views on this topic, and we respect those differences. 

“Our approach has worked. We’ve kept the trains moving and our business strong, while limiting workplace spread. Our people rose to the challenge.

“Now the situation has changed. The Biden Administration has issued an executive order and associated guidance mandating that federal contractors require vaccinations for all employees. We haul tanks, Humvees, and jet fuel for the U.S. Department of Defense and deliver coal to the federally run Tennessee Valley Authority. After reviewing the order carefully to be certain, we determined that we are covered under the mandate. 

“That means we are obligated by law to require vaccinations for our employees. 

“For some, this news will require a difficult individual choice. We don’t want anyone to leave the company because of this new mandate. If you’ve been vaccinated, please share your status through the confidential process.  If you need an accommodation, please seek one.  

“Here’s how the new requirement affects us:

  • “All employees need to provide their status by November 8, regardless of whether they are vaccinated, and even if they shared their status previously. This is critical for us to meet the compliance deadline and plan for potential impacts. 
  • “You can do this by updating your “Personal Information” on SuccessFactors. If you aren’t fully vaccinated by November 8, you should still share your status and update your record later.
  • “This information will be treated as confidential medical information and handled as such.
  • “The federal deadline for employees to be fully vaccinated is December 8. To find a location offering vaccination in your community, we’ve created a resource page with links to search by zip code. 
  • “If you have a medical condition or sincerely held religious belief that prevents you from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, you should apply for an accommodation by November 8. You can apply at the same place you share your vaccination status – by choosing “Personal Information” on SuccessFactors.
  • “You can find more information by visiting a new COVID-19 resource page.

“Whether you support the mandate or have concerns about vaccination, let’s rise to the challenge by showing each other the mutual respect that is such an important value in our culture. 

“Your efforts to keep the trains rolling through this pandemic have been nothing short of heroic. Thank you for all you do to serve our customers and communities.”

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