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Employers give workers paid time off to get COVID-19 vaccination

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With a nationwide effort underway to immunize people against a virus that's killed nearly 488,000 Americans, Tyson Foods on Wednesday became the latest major employer to offer its 120,000 workers another incentive to get the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Tyson, the nation's biggest poultry producer, said it would pay employees up to four hours of regular pay if they are vaccinated outside their regular shift or through an external source. Several hundred Tyson employees, mostly those over 65 or part of its medical staff, have already been vaccinated, and another 1,000 in Illinois, Missouri and Virginia, should be this week, Tyson said.

Tyson's move comes a week after Target joined Aldi, Trader Joe's, Darden Restaurants, McDonald's and Dollar General in promising employees up to four hours of extra pay for getting the shots. Yogurt maker Chobani is paying workers for up to six hours to get inoculated, while Amtrak is spending $3 million to give employees the equivalent of two hours of extra pay once they show they've been vaccinated. 

Target, with 350,000 workers, also said it would cover Lyft rides of up to $15 each way for employees to get to and from their vaccination appointments. The company is working with CVS Health and others to offer vaccines to employees in its stores and distribution centers in the future.

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"All of this on top of our work to ensure the vaccines remain free and easy for all team members — even though we don't plan to require it for them to come to work," Target stated in a news release.

Employers generally have the right to require workers get vaccinated, as they are required to ensure a safe workplace in which "an individual shall not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of individuals in the workplace," according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Kroger, the nation's largest supermarket chain, and meat-processing company JBS are both offering workers $100 to get vaccinated. Lidl, which runs 125 grocery stores in nine states, is offering $200 to employees who get the vaccine; Petco is offering its 26,000 workers $75 and grocery delivery service Instacart is offering $25.

The idea of giving potentially reluctant employees a financial incentive to get vaccinated also extends to the medical industry. In Texas, Houston Methodist plans to give its 26,000 workers an extra $500 next month so long as they're vaccinated.

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