Carhartt Stuck With Its Covid-19 Vaccine Mandate. The Backlash Ensued.

One week after apparel company Carhartt Inc. declared it was keeping its Covid-19 vaccine mandate in place, the company defended its plans despite growing pushback from customers and on social media. 

Some people said they would stop buying Carhartt products and said the company shouldn’t be forcing its employees to choose between getting vaccinated and keeping their job. Other customers welcomed the company’s mandate and thanked Carhartt for keeping their employees safe. 

The workwear-apparel maker, based in Dearborn, Mich., said it decided to keep its own vaccine mandate to ensure workplace safety, a spokeswoman for the company said. Last week’s ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the Biden administration’s vaccination requirements for large private employers doesn’t affect the company’s own mandate, she said.

“Carhartt fully understands and respects the varying opinions on this topic, and we are aware some of our associates do not support this policy,” the spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal in a statement. “However, we stand behind our decision because we believe vaccines are necessary to protect our workforce.” 

The vast majority of Carharrt employees are fully vaccinated or are in the process of receiving their shots, the spokeswoman said. The company, which has more than 5,500 employees globally, also granted some accommodation requests for medical and religious reasons, she said. 

Carhartt, a family-owned company started in 1889 and run by the descendants of the company’s founder, Hamilton Carhartt, is known for making blue-collar workwear. But in recent years, its heavy jackets and hats have become a favorite among actors and models.


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Mark Valade,

chief executive of Carhartt, sent a letter to employees on Jan. 14 notifying them that the vaccine mandate would remain in place. “We put workplace safety at the very top of our priority list and the Supreme Court’s recent ruling doesn’t impact that core value,” Mr. Valade wrote in the letter. He added: “An unvaccinated workforce is both a people and business risk that our company is unwilling to take.” 

Prior to the announcement, the company was mentioned on average about 550 times a day on Twitter, according to an analysis by Storyful, a social-media research firm, which is owned by News Corp, the parent company of The Wall Street Journal. 

After Mr. Valade’s letter began circulating on social media, the number of tweets mentioning the company shot up to more than 33,000 on Tuesday and over 25,000 on Wednesday, according to Storyful. More than 4,000 tweets used the hashtag #BoycottCarhartt and other related terms on Wednesday.

Former Trump administration official

Sebastian Gorka

tweeted, “Never ever buy @Carhartt products again.” Tim Kennedy, a retired UFC fighter, tweeted “Goodbye @Carhartt” to his more than 343,000 followers. 

The federal Covid-19 vaccination requirement for employers with 100 or more workers was met with a mixed response from corporate leaders since the Biden administration implemented it last year. Some companies held off on their own vaccine requirements while the courts took it up. The Supreme Court struck down the rule last week.

Businesses are being forced to weigh the trade-offs that come with implementing a vaccine mandate or not requiring vaccinations for their employees, said Kate Rigby, an attorney with law firm Epstein Becker & Green who advises companies on employment issues. 

One factor that businesses are taking into account is how a mandate would affect employees. A vaccine mandate may alienate some workers, but others might be scared about sharing workspaces with workers who aren’t vaccinated, she said. 

“From a customer standpoint, [companies] are grappling with what their customer base demands of them, and the potential blowback they may receive for actually implementing a mandate, deciding not to implement a mandate or rolling one back,” Ms. Rigby said. “Some are looking at what their competitors are doing and how having a different policy or the same policy as a competitor will affect their employee attrition and what it will do to customer attrition or attraction.”  

Some major employers chose to eliminate their vaccine mandates following the Supreme Court ruling.

Starbucks Corp.

said Tuesday it will no longer require U.S. workers to get Covid-19 vaccines or undergo weekly testing. 

General Electric Co.

changed its vaccine requirements in December after a federal court blocked the Biden administration’s vaccine requirements for federal contractors. The company said it suspended its remaining vaccine or testing requirements following the Supreme Court ruling. 

Citigroup Inc.

, however, said it would keep its own vaccine mandate after the Supreme Court ruling.  

United Airlines Holdings Inc.

has defended its own vaccine requirements, announced in August, and said recently the mandate has likely saved the lives of about eight to 10 employees. The airline had been reporting about one Covid-19 death a week among staffers prior to the mandate’s implementation.

“My suspicion is that most of the companies that put in a vaccine mandate will maintain that vaccine mandate because, frankly, it works,” said Jeffrey Levin-Scherz, population-health leader at

Willis Towers Watson PLC,

a human-resource consulting firm. “Vaccine mandates do lead to much higher rates of vaccine uptake. Very small number of employees are willing to leave a job over this.”

Write to Joseph De Avila at

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