With the number of daily COVID-19 cases rising above 100,000 this week for the first time since February, local governments and businesses – including real estate agents – face tough decisions about whether to mandate vaccines for employees.
On Thursday, daily COVID-19 cases hit a six-month high, hovering around 127,000, driving the seven-day average above 100,000 for the first time since February 11, according to a New York Times Database. To put the increase in perspective, the average daily cases last August averaged 57,000.
Affiliates and the Durst Organization have mandated vaccines for corporate employees in the past few weeks, and Redfin became the first real estate agent to mandate vaccines on Wednesday when it sent a company-wide email to its roughly 3,000 employees, including salaried employees. state that they need to be vaccinated if they want to return to the office.
Warburg Realty, RE / MAX and Chavi Hohm of Coldwell Banker Bain have taken every step to either mandate vaccinations for employees or leave the decision to individual offices, according to a review by Inman.
On Friday, Keller Williams was preparing a COVID-related postponement of business that will be announced later this afternoon, a spokesman told Inman.
“The safety of our people is of the utmost importance,” said Keller Williams spokesman Darryl Frost. “And we continue to follow CDC, WHO, state and local guidelines on COVID safety measures.”
Can brokers require agents to take their pictures?
While most brokerage firms told Inman that they cannot force agents who are independent contractors to get their vaccine, attorneys told Inman otherwise.
According to labor and labor lawyer Deborah Brouwer, brokers can generally request that agents who are independent contractors be vaccinated.
“It can be made a condition of employment, let me put it this way. And I assume that if these companies have contractual relationships with these agents that I assume they do, they can make it a condition of continuing the agency relationship, ”she told Inman.
However, David Aylor, CEO of the South Carolina-based David Aylor Law Offices, said that while implementing such a policy is possible, it could be difficult.
“It’s not a one-size-fits-all, but if an employer can establish the vaccine as a legitimate work requirement, the same requirements would be expected from contractors. If they need vaccines, they must make reasonable provision for workers who cannot be vaccinated for religious or medical reasons, ”he said. “Unless there is clearer legislation on the subject, employers must not oblige it to avoid potential litigation, as the wording of the law leaves room for interpretation of actual work requirements and reasonable accommodation for the unvaccinated.”
Even if a brokerage firm can’t or won’t change contracts, they can do other things to get agents to get the shot, such as:
“Brokers can demand that anyone who enters their physical space be vaccinated just like other companies,” Inman Ambassador Andrea Geller wrote to Inman on Facebook. “I think what a better approach would be for the state to order anyone who is licensed by the state to be vaccinated. This includes real estate professionals, hairdressers, nail designers, medical professionals and the list goes on. “
On Wednesday, Redfin sent a company-wide email to its 3,000 or so employees, including agents since they are employed, stating that they must be vaccinated if they want to return to the office.
New York-based Warburg Realty recently introduced a similar policy.
“Every Warburg employee must have received a first vaccination by August 15 and provide evidence of this, or submit a written medical apology or a religious reason for not attending, or produce a negative test certificate every week,” Warburg CEO Frederick Warburg Peters wrote to his employees . “We have to be part of the solution, not the problem.”
Over in Washington Chavi Hohm, the head of Time Diva Real Estate at Coldwell Banker Bain, is preparing to establish a mandatory vaccination requirement for her team.
“We are currently preparing to publicly announce our vaccination requirements for our team,” she wrote to Inman Coast to Coast. “We have had it since the beginning of this spring. In addition to these requirements, we are adding stricter demonstration and masking requirements. “
But not everyone agrees that brokers should make the call
While some believe brokerage firms should take the plunge and need the vaccine, there are many who don’t.
RE / MAX real estate franchise announced Inman that they are leaving the vaccine mandates to each office.
“As a global real estate franchisor, each of our offices is owned and operated independently. Therefore, these decisions are made by our brokers / owners around the world, ”said a spokesman for the franchise.
Sarah Richardson, Arizona-based CEO and founder of Tru Realty, told Inman that she has no plans to vaccinate her agents but she is taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Tru Realty is home to over 130 agents and offers their agents bespoke masks. In the office there is space between each workstation and cleanliness regulations must be observed.
If her agents were employees, Richardson Inman said it was possible she might consider a vaccination mandate. But because they’re independent contractors, they won’t.
“At the moment we won’t make it mandatory [the vaccine]. We just want to practice being safe. We believe it’s the agent’s choice, ”said Richardson.
While David Serle, who owns a Florida brokerage firm as part of the RE / MAX franchise, thinks agents should get the chance, he’s on the same boat as Richardson. He doesn’t think he can ask his agents, who are independent contractors, to get vaccinated.
“I strongly recommend that all agents get vaccinated. They should be because they have an obligation to the public, ”he said.
But resorting to a vaccine mandate, he went on, is “a very slippery slope” as it can blur the line between an independent contractor and an employee.
Rodenbeck, owner of Austin-based Spyglass Realty, isn’t sure what to do either.
“Yes, I think they should all be vaccinated,” he wrote on Inman Coast to Coast. “In my opinion, there is no merit in not being vaccinated. Apart from that, I have not yet implemented the requirement. I hesitate, even though I believe 95% of my agents are already vaccinated. “
Big brokerage firms Compass and Century 21 declined to comment when asked if they were considering a vaccine mandate. Douglas Elliman, Corcoran, Realogy and Sotheby’s did not respond immediately.
Email Libertina Brandt