CNN fires three employees for coming to work without being vaccinated

AP Photo/Ron Harris

At long last, an answer to the question “What do you have to do to get fired from CNN?”

Yanking your crank on a Zoom call with co-workers? No, that won’t do it.

Conniving with your sleazebag politician brother to discredit women who accused him of sexual harassment after giving him ludicrously favorable coverage last year? That won’t cut it either.

Lying to management about your vaccination status when you know there’s a “stay home if you haven’t had your shots” office policy in effect?

Yep, that’s it.

The three employees haven’t been identified but it’s a cinch that they’re low-ranking and easily replaced. The cases of Chris Cuomo and Jeffrey Toobin prove that if Jeff Zucker likes you and believes for some unfathomable reason that you add value to his network, you could take a dump on the air and still not be pink-slipped.

This is one of the first cases outside the health-care industry of people being fired for not being vaccinated, by the way. A strange detail from elsewhere in Zucker’s memo yesterday:

In his memo on Thursday, Mr. Zucker announced that CNN had postponed its formal Sept. 7 return to the office for American employees. CNN has not determined a new date, but Mr. Zucker said sometime in October “seems reasonable at this point.”

If he has enough confidence in the efficacy of the vaccine (and he should) to require it of all in-office employees, why is he delaying bringing everyone back on September 7? If all returning employees are vaxxed, per company policy, then it should be safe enough to proceed. If anything, waiting until October could mean indefinite delays since the feds are expecting a major Delta surge in the fall. Postponing the reopening now runs a real risk that he’ll have to postpone it again later, and before you know it it’ll be 2022 and CNNers will still be working from home.

That said, I understand why companies like CNN and United Airlines are starting to turn hard-ass about getting their employees immunized:

United Airlines will require its 67,000 U.S. employees to get vaccinated against Covid by no later than Oct. 25 or risk termination, a first for major U.S. carriers that will likely ramp up pressure on rivals.

Airlines including United have so far resisted vaccine mandates for all workers, instead offering incentives like extra pay or time off to get inoculated. Delta Air Lines in May started requiring newly hired employees to show proof of vaccination. United followed suit in June.

United’s requirement is one of the strictest vaccine mandates from a U.S. company and one that includes employees who interact regularly with customers like flight attendants and gate agents.

Remember the case of the restaurant owner in Atlanta who barred the unvaccinated from his premises after four vaccinated employees got infected and had to stay home? The fact that breakthrough infections have become more common with Delta means that having an unvaxxed person in the office risks sparking an outbreak that could force even vaxxed workers to need time off to recover. And of course an unvaccinated employee is at risk for a long ordeal, one that could keep them off the job for weeks. If you’re an employer worried about your staff missing meaningful time due to COVID, vaccination is your best weapon.

Granted, with infections now seemingly occurring between vaccinated people too, it’s not foolproof. But it’s the best mitigation strategy available. “[T]he unvaccinated continue to be the big highway of transmission,” said one doctor to CNN. “The vaccinated, they’re little side streets. Let’s not get preoccupied with that.” The question now is, how far will employers go in demanding proof of immunization? As CNN learned, the honor system isn’t going to cut it.