Office workers at The Hershey Company say that while they must be vaccinated or face job loss, employees working in food production and Chocolate World, the company’s retail outlet stores, do not have a vaccination requirement.
The Pennsylvania snack company has continued food production operations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Its retail stores are now fully open, but early in the pandemic, mitigation protocols were in place limiting the number of people in stores and scanning each patron for a fever.
Office workers worked from home and started returning to the office in June. They are required to get vaccinated for COVID-19. Those office workers who are not vaccinated will lose their jobs.
Hershey has not implemented a vaccination requirement for the rest of its employees. The Hershey Company did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
Several office workers, who did not want to be named as they are attempting to keep their jobs, have sought religious exemptions but were denied. They are willing to be tested regularly or to work from home as they had been doing.
“The employer claims that granting an exemption presents an undue hardship to the employer, without giving a reason or data to support this claim other than Hershey’s intent to have employees report to the office,” Jeff Schott, a labor and civil rights attorney at the Scaringi Law Firm in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, wrote in a letter to the company on behalf of the employees. “Absent detailed data or reasoning, it can only be assumed that the company purports to believe that the vaccinations are necessary to protect employees from the spread of the virus. Not only has it been well established that the vaccines do not do so, but the belief is contradicted by Hershey’s own failure to implement and enforce the same mandate thus far on production workers and Chocolate World employees who have, unlike many of the office workers such as my clients, been unable to do any work from home and have been reporting to work side-by-side or directly with the public without the requirement and with no undue hardship to the company.”
Hershey’s online COVID mitigation updates clearly show employees have different rules.
For manufacturing facilities, Hershey describes this set of rules:
“Our safety protocols include wearing masks, physical distancing and temperature checks when checking into work each day, in addition to adjusted work schedules and work teams to ensure employee safety, we are also encouraging our employees to follow the recommended and mandated guidelines outside of work, adhering to all government health and safety protocols. We are increasing our efforts to educate and encourage vaccination but are not requiring vaccination for our manufacturing team members at this time.”
These enhanced protocols will not change for the foreseeable future, the company’s website says.
Here are the rules for Hershey’s corporate and commercial offices:
“We believe we have an important role to play in helping bring an end to this pandemic and vaccination is one of the ways we are taking steps together. We are requiring proof of vaccination for U.S. corporate and commercial employees in line with the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines. Taking these steps will get us to a place where we can use our offices for collaboration and connection and be together safely. It’s important for our culture, our business agility and future growth.”
Those who work in business-to-business sales and at the Hershey Chocolate World retail stores are encouraged but not required to get vaccinated.
Those office workers who asked for religious exemptions have been suspended and some of their job positions have been advertised as being open, Schott said.
“The responses my clients have received to their exemption requests indicate that their requests were not given adequate individual consideration regarding the sincerity of their religious beliefs, and further claim an undue hardship on the company,” Schott told The Epoch Times. “They all received nearly identical responses and, in that other employees who worked side by side, or with the public are not required to be vaccinated, the company’s claim is beyond absurd.”
Hershey manufacturers many popular snack foods, including Kisses, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Kit Kat, Twizzlers, Jolly Rancher, Ice Breakers, Carefree, Breath Savers, chocolate syrup, baking cocoa, ice cream fudge, chocolate milk, Brookside, York Peppermint Patty, Almond Joy, Pay Day, Whatchamacallit, Skinny Pop popcorn, and more. The company recently announced its acquisition of Dots Pretzels and Pretzels Inc., a related pretzel manufacturer, for $1.2 billion.