Morgan Stanley Told Its Employees They Need To Be Vaccinated To Return To Work: Here’s A Theory As To Why The Bank Is Doing This
Top-tier investment bank Morgan Stanley told its bankers, brokers and traders that workers who haven’t been vaccinated won’t be allowed to return to its New York City and Westchester County offices. Additionally, the bank’s employees in the New York area will be called upon to attest to their vaccination status by July 1. If a staff member isn’t vaccinated, they would have to continue working remotely.
Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman recently required his employees to return to work. He bluntly stated, “If you can go into a restaurant in New York City, you can come into the office.” To underscore his point, Gorman said he’d be “very disappointed” if workers have not “found their way into the office” by the Labor Day holiday on September 6. It was also reported that he’d “take a dim view of employees who did not work regularly in the office.” While some tech companies, such as Reddit and Zillow, were open to paying people Silicon Valley wages, even if they relocated to lower-cost locations, Gorman said, “If you want to get paid New York rates, you work in New York.”
At first blush, the edicts sound cold and harsh. However, executive management is in a tough spot. To bring back workers, whether it’s full time or on a hybrid basis, there needs to be a measure of safety and comfort for the returnees.
With the pandemic fresh in people’s minds, it’s reasonable for some to be concerned about their health. By requiring vaccinations, it may seem pushy, and possibly invasive of privacy, but companies need to look out for the health and safety of all of their workers.
After more than a year at home, people are nervous about commuting back into a city that was once the hotspot and epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S. With a fully vaccinated workforce, it would reduce some of the stress for the employees. Once the offices fill up, having a large percentage of the office staff vaccinated would go a long way toward alleviating tensions.
MORE FOR YOU
There are a couple of other issues that aren’t discussed. Think for a moment what would happen to New York City if the big banks, which bring in the vast amount of tax revenue to the city coffers, decide to forsake their real estate and allow everyone to permanently work remotely. It would cause a cascade of business closures and the death knell of restaurants, bars, gyms, shops and stores, as thousands of potential customers won’t be around.
The deserted landscape could create a vacuum in which crime, violence and open drug use run rampant. This would discourage people who were considering going to the office or tourists coming into town to enjoy a Broadway show and dinner.
The empty streets and closed businesses would place downward pressure on the value of real estate. Feeling unsafe and vulnerable, residents would consider leaving New York and moving to the suburbs. The tax revenue will fall further, which means that city officials will be forced to cut both services and municipal workers. With fewer garbage collectors, firefighters, police officers, teachers and hospital personnel, the quality of life would suffer. The decisions made by Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley may have also been prompted by a need to save the city from demise.
Wall Street is a highly regulated industry. Compliance, legal, risk and audit professionals watch over the actions of bankers, traders, money managers and salespeople. Without close oversight, employees could potentially push the envelope and violate rules and regulations, which would adversely impact investors and customers. It may be easier for the banks to have everyone under one roof to ensure that brokers working at home aren’t engaged in questionable activities, as they’re out of sight from the regulatory professionals.
Goldman Sachs, an archrival of Morgan Stanley, previously required its staff members to inform the bank of their vaccination status. Goldman’s decision—whether you agree with it or not—is understandable. It’s a reasonable response for executive leadership to want their workers vaccinated. This would help avoid potential legal liabilities, in the event an employee passes along Covid-19 to co-workers, who in turn, infect their families.
A Goldman memo to employees said, “Registering your vaccination status allows us to plan for a safer return to the office for all of our people, as we continue to abide by local public health measures. As a result, it is mandatory that you submit your vaccination status on the Canopy app [the bank’s internal portal for employees], whether or not you are vaccinated.” According to the New York Times, although Goldman employees need to report their status,“they do not need to show proof of vaccination, but will be asked to record the date they received their shots and the maker of the vaccine.”
Companies are tasked with the unenviable chore of navigating this new environment. The Covid-19 vaccines were approved by the FDA through an Emergency Use Authorization. Unlike past vaccinations, this new shot is given with an advisory that it’s completely voluntary.
Despite this caveat, it seems that companies can legally require vaccines as a condition of employment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said that asking employees for their vaccination status is legal, but the data needs to be kept confidential.
It’s not an easy call for management. No matter what they decide, there will be a large number of unhappy people. If an employee falls into the category in which they don’t want to—or can’t—be vaccinated, but could potentially be a health threat to colleagues, the supervisor has to come up with solutions.
This could include making reasonable accommodations, such as isolating the person from others, which isn’t too practical or polite. They may elect to ask the unvaccinated person to work remotely. It could get complicated and uncomfortable. As companies are planning to soon have people back in the office, executives have to quickly figure out how to navigate these difficult decisions.