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Citigroup set to discipline workers who flout bank's vaccine rules

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Citigroup is demanding that workers get jabbed or risk losing their jobs. 

Employees of the banking giant who aren't vaccinated against COVID-19 may soon find themselves unemployed under the company's strict vaccine mandate, issued in October. Unvaccinated staff members at the nation's fourth-largest bank will be placed on unpaid leave effective Friday and fired at the end of the month unless they are granted a medical or religious exemption, according to a memo sent to staff on Friday, Bloomberg reported

"Complying with the requirement means either submitting proof of vaccination by the January 14 deadline or receiving an approved medical or religious accommodation or state-permitted exemption," a source with knowledge of the bank's policies told CBS MoneyWatch, while noting that the same deadline does not apply to branch staff. 

Citi was the first major U.S. bank back in October to require inoculation against COVID-19 as a condition of employment. 

"Our people are our most important asset, and we will do all we can to help our colleagues comply with this at the time of the announcement," Sara Wechter, head of human resources at Citigroup, said in a LinkedIn post at the time. In detailing the company's rationale, she cited compliance with federal policy as a primary factor in the bank's decision. 

"First, as the U.S. government is a large and important client of Citi, we have an obligation to comply with the Executive Order issued by the White House mandating that individuals supporting government contracts be fully vaccinated," Wechter said.

With this latest memo, the bank is now the first major financial institution set to dismiss employees who refuse to get vaccinated.

Employers in other industries such as health care and aviation have already begun firing staff members who have flouted vaccination rules. 

The Mayo Clinic fired 700 employees on January 4 for defying a company mandate to get vaccinated by January 2, CBS Minnesota reported. And United Airlines fired 232 employees, out of a total of 67,000 staffers, for refusing to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, CEO Scott Kirby told CBS Mornings in October.

Citi's stringent policy comes as the Supreme Court debates whether the Biden administration has the authority to enforce its vaccine-or-test rule on large businesses, and as the number of COVID-19 cases surges across U.S.

The rise of highly contagious strains of the coronavirus, such as Delta and Omicron, has continuously forced corporations to postpone plans to reopen offices, another major incentive for them to require vaccinations. 

While other financial firms such as JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America have taken steps to encourage workers to get their shots, only Citi has gone so far as to make it a requirement for employment.

More than 90% of Citi's roughly 65,000 U.S. employees have already been vaccinated, the source confirmed. The banking giant is headquartered in New York City, where private-sector employers have been required since December 27 to mandate vaccinations for their employees.

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