Universal won’t require COVID testing for non-vaccinated workers

·3 min read

Universal employees will not be required to undergo weekly COVID testing if they are not vaccinated, a decision made in response to a change in federal regulations, the company said.

The announcement reverses a policy Universal updated 10 days earlier.

On Jan. 10, Universal sent workers a message that they would either be required to be vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID testing starting Feb. 9 and wear masks in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Emergency Temporary Standard.

The Supreme Court struck down the requirement on Jan. 13, saying the agency overstepped its authority in issuing the mandate. Universal spokesman Tom Schroder previously said the company would adapt its vaccination and testing policy as legal challenges to COVID regulations moved through the courts.

The update sent to Universal employees Thursday also said employees would be paid if they had to miss a shift due to experiencing side effects from the vaccine or booster shot. That policy runs through April 9, according to the company.

In the message, Universal told employees it would continue to encourage them to be vaccinated but would not require vaccination or regular employee testing.

Workers are still required to share their vaccination status with the company, but Universal has made it optional for employees to upload copies of their vaccine cards to prove vaccination.

Universal spokeswoman Alyson Sologaistoa confirmed the details of the employee message and said Universal had not changed other aspects of its employee policy Thursday.

She did not respond Friday when asked if the company was concerned that not requiring proof of vaccination might lead to employees falsely claiming they had been vaccinated.

The company began requiring workers to disclose their vaccination status in August.

When the mandate was initially announced, Universal did not publicly say whether employees who claimed to be vaccinated would be asked to provide proof. The policy updated Jan. 10 instructed workers who said they were vaccinated to upload proof via a company portal.

Unlike Disney, Universal has never required workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Disney suspended its vaccine mandate in November due to state legislation that limited employers’ abilities to carry out COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

On Friday, spokeswoman Andrea Finger said that mandate is still on hold.

“While our vaccine policy for current employees continues to be paused, we are pleased with the level of compliance with more than 90% of our active Florida-based Cast Members and employees already having verified their full vaccination status,” she said in a statement.

Disney World does not require weekly COVID-19 testing for employees, according to the company.

A SeaWorld spokeswoman did not respond to questions about the park’s vaccine policy Friday.

After the Supreme Court’s ruling last week, U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh defended the OSHA standard and said the agency’s policy was the “best way to protect the nation’s workforce from a deadly virus.”

“We urge all employers to require workers to get vaccinated or tested weekly to most effectively fight this deadly virus in the workplace,” he said in a statement. “Employers are responsible for the safety of their workers on the job, and OSHA has comprehensive COVID-19 guidance to help them uphold their obligation.”