Update: (16/01) VF Corporation, the parent company of brands including VANS, Supreme, Timberland, and North Face, is following in the footsteps of Nike by requiring all office-based US employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
In an email to Outdoor Business Journal, VF Senior Director of Corporate Affairs Colin Wheeler wrote, "If by January 31, they [unvaccinated employee] have not received an approved accommodation, they will be separated from the company and will not receive severance."
Nike will terminate the contracts of unvaccinated employees beginning this weekend. That’s according to a report in The Oregonian, which states that employees who have not fulfilled Nike’s self-imposed vaccine mandate will be let go on January 15.
That date was the deadline put in place by the company in October when it introduced a vaccine mandate that required employees to either get vaccinated or show proof of a medical or religious exemption.
In The Oregonian’s report, the contents of an email that was apparently sent to Nike employees last week, was published. The email reportedly reads: “You failed to complete the verification process and our records show that you do not have an approved (exemption). As a result, you are not in compliance with the Policy and your employment is scheduled to be terminated on Saturday, January 15, 2022.”
Columbia Sportswear, also headquartered in Oregon, will also reportedly begin terminating employees who have not met the company’s internal vaccine mandate, though the brand’s deadline is said to be February 1.
Vaccine mandates are a controversial topic. The government has tried to implement them across specific industries in the U.S., however, the legality of many of those mandates are being challenged. Nike and Columbia, being private companies, are believed to be able to implement such mandates more effectively than the government, though it’s highly likely that both companies will also see legal resistance.
In addition to the legal issues, there are some moral objections (or, at the very least, reservations) regarding vaccine mandates. The question of whether people should be forced to get the vaccine is one not easily answered.
In an earnings call with shareholders last month, Nike CEO John Donahoe said, “As you know, in the United States we have mandated vaccines and have a very high response rate to that. So we’re ready to come back in a hybrid work environment when that’s safe.”
Adding another layer of controversy to the story is the fact that one of Nike Basketball’s signature athletes, Kyrie Irving, is famously unvaccinated. Irving, who was first barred from team activities by the Brooklyn Nets, is only playing in away games due to New York City’s vaccine mandate for certain indoor facilities.
As one of the faces of Nike Basketball and one of the brand’s most popular signature shoes, it remains to be seen how Nike handles its partnership with the player. Especially because its hard-line stance with its employees could potentially be perceived as a double-standard, even if Irving is not an employee.
Head to the Oregonian here to read the story in full (paywalled) and stay tuned for updates.
Highsnobiety has reached out to Nike for comment.