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Let’s Talk About Vaccines and Your Staff

Let’s Talk About Vaccines: How to Educate, Encourage, and Incentivize Your Staff

Talk About Vaccines And Your Brewery Staff
Brewery employees across the country are successfully accessing the COVID-19 vaccine or will gain access in the next few months. While there are many arguments in favor of the vaccineOpens in new window, the issue has raised a common question for many breweries: Can we make it mandatory for our staff? The answer is murky: Potentially. A better question might be: Should we make the vaccine mandatory for our staff?

Can We Make the COVID-19 Vaccine Mandatory for Our Staff?

In short, you may be able to mandate inoculation for your staff, but it’s important to check with local legal expertise before implementing a program. Per the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRMOpens in new window), “The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance stating that employees may be exempt from employer vaccination mandates under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), and other workplace laws.” Or, essentially, if you make the vaccine mandatory for your staff, there will be legal exemptions you need to be prepared to navigate. For more resources, check out:

Should We Make the COVID-19 Vaccine Mandatory for Our Staff?

This question is something for each individual brewery to address. You are the best judge of your staff, their morale, and general feelings toward the vaccine. It is pertinent to consider the issue from your staff’s perspective as well when making this decision.

Overall, my stance on the COVID-19 vaccine is to take the same procedures and communication I would for recommending our employees to get their annual flu shot. I certainly want all of our staff, if they can, to be vaccinated, which is exactly the same opinion I have about the flu shot every year. Best strategy we can take is to provide education and support our employees, but ultimately it is the employee’s personal choice.

Tara Spracklen, HR director for Bosque Brewing

Keep in mind that there are alternatives to making the vaccine mandatory. Though guidance is unclear, some business are implementing alternative programsOpens in new window to encourage, educate, and incentivize vaccinations. I spoke with three brewing industry HR representatives—Christine Bry, director of people operations for Cape May Brewing Co.Opens in new window; Angela Carrodeguas, HR director for Three Notch’d BrewingOpens in new window; and Tara Spracklen, HR director for Bosque BrewingOpens in new window—who contributed to the following thoughts.

There are three main alternatives to a mandatory program: sharing educational information, encouraging staff to get the vaccine, and incentivizing staff to get the vaccine.


Provide your staff with educational materials to alleviate concerns. If you’ve done research using reputable sources, share those resources with your employees. Integrate education into your regular meeting schedule, post resources in Slack, or include information in your newsletter. Don’t forget to cover information about each specific vaccine, as people may feel uncomfortable with one versus another. If you receive helpful updates from state or local authorities, share with your staff or encourage them to sign up as well.

NOTE: Consult your HR staff or legal representation before creating mandatory meetings strictly for vaccine education.

You have to listen to their concerns [about vaccines] and point them to reliable sources that they can use for research/follow-up. Say, “Here are sites where I got information, but you should ask your doctor if you have questions.”

We are educating through our weekly employee newsletter. We also send out the daily COVID-19 update from the state. It is a nice, concise recap of what is going on. Education is there, and we talk about it.

Christine Bry, director of people operations for Cape May Brewing Co.

We have a weekly all-team meeting and we highlight safety every week. During the pandemic, we cover COVID-19 related topics (like face masks) or share information about the vaccine with citations.

Encourage your staff to subscribe to health department updates. Our department puts out really helpful information on a weekly basis.

Angela Carrodeguas, HR director for Three Notch’d Brewing


Encourage your staff to get the vaccine. Education and incentivization (below) play large roles in staff encouragement. While education and (if you choose that route) incentivization will help encourage staff, you can also reduce other roadblocks to obtaining a vaccine. Can you provide necessary links and information about vaccination sites, as well as how to pre-register? Can you assist with any technological barriers, such as computer availability or savvy? Are staff members concerned about the time spent registering for and receiving the vaccine? Have you considered providing paid time off (PTO) to cover those activities?

We are offering paid time off—two hours per dose, and you get two days off if you experience any side effects. To qualify, you present only proof of immunization.

We shared information about how to get people pre-registered for the vaccine.

Angela Carrodeguas, HR director for Three Notch’d Brewing

Our executive assistant has been helping people get appointments.

Consider people who are uncomfortable with technology and computers, and give them support. Educate your staff how to get in the queue and give them the time and ability to wait in line. We provide paid time when trying to sign up.

Christine Bry, director of people operations for Cape May Brewing Co.


Incentivize staff to get the vaccine. Providing paid time to cover vaccination-related activities, while removing a potential barrier, also acts as an incentive. In addition to PTO, companies are also offering cash or in-kind incentivesOpens in new window. That type of incentivization is a gray areaOpens in new window and has some nuances (like the need to provide equal benefit to those exempt from vaccination due to workplace laws and size of incentive). Consult legal counsel before moving forward, especially if considering a significant incentive. Similarly, keep checking back with the EEOC as they have been asked to clarifyOpens in new window.


In a recent survey by the Brewers Association, respondents are not offering incentives outside of the aforementioned paid time to sign up for and obtain the vaccine.

Encouraging employees to participate in vaccinations by offering incentives could be considered a wellness program, and if incentives are too high, they would be considered to violate the ADA and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) by coercing participation in wellness programs. I’ve heard rumors of local employers offering a $100 ‘bonus’ for employees who have received their vaccinations, which raised a red flag in my mind as the EEOC has made it clear that only items of minimal, or “de minimis,” value, such as water bottles or gift cards of modest amounts, are permitted to be used by employers to encourage their employees to voluntarily participate in a wellness activity.

Tara Spracklen, HR director for Bosque Brewing

Seek Guidance

Vaccinations are a sensitive topic. To reiterate, seek legal advice before implementing a mandatory program and consider seeking guidance if you are strongly encouraging and incentivizing. This is especially true if implementing any of the following, as they could violate existing workplace laws:

  1. Asking for your employees’ vaccination plans, especially with the intent of acting on that information.
  2. Adjusting scheduling based on inoculation status. Check with legal representation if you want to reduce hours or change shifts for staff who choose not to get vaccinated.
  3. Asking staff why they do not want to get vaccinated.

In addition to speaking directly to local legal counsel, I encourage you to reach out to your state guild as guidance varies by state.

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Article Retrieved from Brewers Association, written By Sarah Billiu, Membership Team Lead .