A hot potato: Intel is joining Google and several other tech companies in coming down hard on workers who don't comply with its vaccine mandate. Any currently unvaccinated employees must get their jab or present a legal exemption by January 4. The alternative is unpaid leave.

The Associated Press obtained an internal memo from Intel Chief People Officer Christy Pambianchi sent on December 7 stating that unvaccinated employees must seek medical or religious exemption and submit to weekly testing, even if they are working from home. The memo adds that Intel will review these exemptions until March 15 of next year.

Any unvaccinated employees whose exemption requests are not granted will begin unpaid leave on April 4 for at least three months, during which time they will keep their health benefits. However, unlike Google, Intel emphasized that the workers in question "will not be terminated."

Both Intel and Google put their vaccine mandates in place to comply with a Biden administration executive order. It requires US companies with 100 or more employees to ensure their workers are fully vaccinated or regularly tested for Covid-19 by January 18. It's facing several legal challenges in the courts, including being blocked by a federal judge in Georgia on December 7, but many firms are still pressing ahead with the requirement.

"We are closely monitoring the legal environment and expect it will take time for the case in Georgia, as well as other similar cases, to be fully resolved," Intel said in a statement to Oregon Live. "In the meantime, we remain focused on keeping our employees regularly informed of updates, required actions, and next steps - which at present include preparing for testing and accommodation requests."

Unvaccinated Googlers may be hit with even harsher consequences. Those who have not been vaccinated or granted an exemption by January 18 will face paid administrative leave for 30 days. If they still haven't satisfied Google's requirements during this time, they will be put on unpaid administrative leave for up to six months. Should the employees continue to refuse the vaccine or fail to receive exempt status, they will be fired.

In related news, rising Covid-19 infections and the emergence of the Omicron variant have seen several big names pull out of or severely limit their in-person appearance at CES 2022.