Johnny C. Taylor Jr.
| Special to USA TODAYJohnny C. Taylor Jr., a human resources expert, is tackling your questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest HR professional society.The questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor’s answers below have been edited for length and clarity.Have a question? Do you have an HR or work-related question you’d like me to answer? Submit it here.Question: My company is considering encouraging (COVID-19) vaccination by adding a surcharge to the medical benefits of $100 per month for those that are not fully vaccinated. I have seen several articles on incentivizing vaccination but not much about penalties. Can my company do this? – JacquieJohnny C. Taylor Jr.: Indeed, many companies are searching for effective ways to encourage their employees to get vaccinated and return safely to the workplace. And yes, they can incentivize and even mandate the shot. The more pertinent question may be: Should they?As businesses strive to recover in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are making critical decisions that impact their workforce. However, adding a surcharge to the health insurance premiums of unvaccinated employees is not a simple fix. To start, authoritative guidance – from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, court rulings, or elsewhere – isn’t readily available, and employers may have difficulty formulating the right surcharge amount without supporting data.Implementing an insurance premium surcharge also may trigger a host of legal considerations:• It could violate The Americans with Disabilities Act if an employee did not receive a vaccine due to a disability.• If an employee chooses not to vaccinate because of a sincerely held religious belief, a penalty could defy Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.• The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 prohibits discrimination in group health plan eligibility, benefits, and premiums based on specific health factors, which could include COVID-19 non-vaccinations.• Some states have or are proposing legislation with language about medical plan premiums and the legality of disincentives for vaccinations in the public or private sectors.Until more reliable, clear guidance is available, your employer would be wise to confer with legal counsel prior to implementing such a surcharge.They should also consider the employee relations angle. Survey data suggests – and we’ve seen play out in recent news – that a significant percentage of workers would leave their jobs before consenting to vaccination. So, in this instance, solving one problem potentially creates another.In my experience, employees respond more favorably to carrots than to sticks. Rewarding vaccinated workers with a day off, gift cards, or bonuses contributes positively to workplace morale and does not violate the law – and can be as effective at improving vaccination rates.Considering the legal gray areas, employee relations concerns and alternatives, are penalties worth it? For my money, the answer is no.Be well, and I hope your employer makes the best decision for your workplace.Incentives: Walgreens announces $25 giveaway for new COVID-19 vaccine recipientsStartling pandemic stats: Travel on the rise, delta variant in the USCOVID-19 restrictions are loosening around the country and travel is increasing at a rapid race. Here are the most surprising stats from June 2021.USA TODAYQ: I have an important job interview coming up and I really want to land this position. Are there any important tips for preparing for an interview, especially one that will be online? – AnonymousTaylor: Congratulations for making it this far! Interviewing can be nerve-wracking for anyone, but virtual interviews present their own challenges. As with many endeavors, preparation and practice build confidence and lead to success.Let’s start with the technical aspects unique to online interviews that you will want to lock down first. When done right, camera placement frames your entire appearance and allows for the feel of face-to-face interaction. The camera should be at eye level, enabling eye contact between you and the interviewer(s). It also helps to be able to see yourself on screen so you have a visual reminder to keep smiling.Make sure your lighting and background are appropriate for the meeting. Clear your environment of visual and audio distractions. If you are conducting your meeting from a home where others live, give them a heads up that you are going live and that they should stay clear of the area and remain quiet.First impressions count. You should dress professionally and be well-groomed, presenting yourself in the best possible light – figurately and literally. As a guide, dress at least one level above the expected dress code for the position applied.Be sure to test the software application, your camera and your microphone well in advance of the meeting. Your computer should be adequately charged. Consider recording yourself in a mock interview with a friend and make any adjustments as needed.Job tips: How to prepare for a virtual job interviewFrom lighting to sound, here are 5 tips to prepare for a virtual job interview.ProblemSolved, USA TODAYAgain, like an in-person interview, mastering the virtual interview is all about preparation and practice. You will want to research the industry, company, interviewer, and position ahead of your meeting. Identify connection points between your background and these elements of the role.Develop concise answers to commonly asked questions and compile a personal narrative that tells a story of who you are with examples of how you have added value to organizations. Be prepared to highlight how in related roles you identified issues, anticipated needs, and met challenges.Remember that interviewing is a two-way street. This is a key opportunity to discover if this company and this position are a good fit for you as well as for them.Your résumé might have gotten you the interview but at the end of the day they aren’t hiring a résumé – they are hiring a person. So, relax, breathe, smile, and show them you’re the right choice for the job. I wish you the best of luck!
Johnny C. Taylor Jr.