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Expedia removes COVID vaccination requirement for employees and others to enter most offices – GeekWire


A view of an Expedia Group office building at the company’s waterfront campus in Seattle. (GeekWire File Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Expedia Group is removing a COVID-19 vaccination policy at most of its offices around the world, a policy which required employees and others to be vaccinated and boosted in order to work in or visit the company’s physical spaces.

Like many companies, the Seattle-based online travel giant followed health recommendations and the guidance of local authorities by instituting a strict policy for those who wished to work in person in offices. The new directive, effective today, was laid out in a Sept. 22 email from Michael Davis Velasco, chief people, inclusion & diversity officer at Expedia Group. (See full email at bottom.)

“We are moving from a pandemic to an endemic phase and are learning to live with the virus,” Velasco wrote. “We are in a different phase of the virus than when we launched the policy. Vaccines, boosters, and treatment options are now widely available and helping to protect people from serious illness.”

In a statement to GeekWire, Expedia said, “We continue to encourage all employees to get vaccinated and boosted and follow guidance from their local health authorities.”

The new policy impacts employees in several ways:

  • Unvaccinated employees, contractors, and vendors who were previously not eligible to enter Expedia offices due to the vaccination policy can now come in.
  • Visitors can also enter offices without vaccination proof, although larger family/friend events will remain on hold until the end of the year.
  • A healthcare surcharge in the U.S. of $170 per month for employees who were unvaccinated has been eliminated.
  • The U.S. requirement for new hires to be vaccinated to be eligible for employment is also removed.
Inside Expedia Group’s Seattle HQ prior to its 2019 move into its new space. (GeekWire File Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

A survey cited by Bloomberg earlier this year found about a third of employers ended or were planning to end mandates. But companies like Google and Facebook are still requiring those who enter the office to be vaccinated, Axios reported last month.

Expedia has employees in 55 countries around the world. Like other tech giants, the company was repeatedly forced throughout the pandemic to change plans for when it hoped to bring employees back to the office.

In February, Expedia announced plans to implement a hybrid work policy starting April 4, with an expectation that “employees will spend at least 50% of their time in the office, working with their respective leaders on an appropriate schedule.” Velasco reiterated that desire in the new email.

Expedia Group includes travel brands such as vrbo, Orbitz, Hotwire, Trivago, Hotels.com, and Egencia in addition to the flagship Expedia.com.

Expedia reported revenue of $3.2 billion in its most recent quarter, up 51% from last year, and up 1% compared to the second quarter of 2019. It cited strong travel demand despite the uncertain economy and the lingering effects of COVID-19 around the world.

The company moved to a spacious headquarters on the downtown Seattle waterfront from its longtime home in downtown Bellevue, Wash., in 2019.

Here is the full email from Velasco:

Hi team,

If you’ve been on vacation or traveling for business in the last few months, you’ve likely seen countries lifting their Covid-19 requirements and life returning to normal. We are moving from a pandemic to an endemic phase and are learning to live with the virus.

As we’ve done throughout the pandemic, we base our Covid-19 policy decisions on the latest science and guidance from health authorities like the World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Based on the latest guidance, we are removing our vaccination policy, effective Oct. 3 (except in Jordan, where local law requires everyone to be vaccinated in the workplace). We are in a different phase of the virus than when we launched the policy. Vaccines, boosters, and treatment options are now widely available and helping to protect people from serious illness.

While we encourage you to stay up to date on your vaccinations and continue to follow guidance from local health authorities, we will no longer be requiring you to be vaccinated and boosted to enter most of our offices around the world.

What this means:

— Employees, contractors, and vendors who were previously not eligible to enter our offices due to our vaccination policy can come into the office starting Oct. 3 (excluding Jordan). As a reminder, we expect employees to spend at least 50% of their time in the office unless they’ve been approved to be fully remote. We understand it takes time to adjust to a new routine, so if you haven’t been into the office in a while, talk to your manager about what your new schedule will look like and any support you may need during this transition.

— We are removing our vaccination policy for visitors as well, effective Oct. 3 (excluding Jordan). However, we will be holding off on hosting large events with families and friends through the remainder of the year while we adjust to this change.

— In the U.S., we are removing our healthcare surcharge of $170 per month for those who are unvaccinated, effective Sep. 1. We are also removing our U.S. requirement for new hires to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to be eligible for employment, effective Oct. 3. We understand this will be a transition. We will continue doing contact tracing in our offices, as well as enhanced cleaning measures, to keep us all safe in offices.

I want to say thank you to the People Team, Facilities, Legal, Comms, and countless others who have helped us manage through the pandemic. Staying up-to-date and compliant with ever-changing local requirements is no easy feat. We appreciate your hard work and dedication.

Thank you for your flexibility as we navigate the pandemic together.

Best,

Michael Davis Velasco





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