SAG-AFTRA & Advertising Biz Agree To Allow Mandatory Vaccinations For Commercial Shoots & Auditions

SAG-AFTRA and the Joint Policy Committee of the advertising industry have agreed, for the first time, to allow commercial producers to mandate Covid vaccinations on commercial shoots and auditions.

The new guidelines are an addendum to the their existing Covid safety protocols and are similar to those already in place on film and TV productions. The agreement was reached on September 9 between the union and the Joint Policy Committee, which is the bargaining arm of the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies. The JPC says the new agreement will “provide a framework that will allow producers to mandate the Covid-19 vaccine for commercial productions.”

Read the new policy in full here.

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Under Section I of the new guidelines, a producer can establish a mandatory vaccination policy for commercial productions subject to the following requirements:

A. Producer must announce such policies as soon as possible, preferably in initial breakdowns or earliest casting discussions;
B. Producer must apply such policies equally to all performers in the relevant zone(s) or work location(s);
C. Producer must abide by the vaccination inquiry procedures set forth in Section II below with respect to its applicable vaccination policy;
D. Producer must have procedures in place to engage in the legally-required interactive process with those requesting medical exemption or religious accommodations, and must include the procedure for initiating a request in all notices of the vaccination policy;
E. To verify vaccination status, Producer shall require individuals to provide one of the following types of proof of vaccination: i) a digital vaccination card maintained by a government, vaccination provider or verification service that checks against government records; ii) production or upload of a physical vaccination card or copy of a physical vaccination card; and iii) Producer must maintain any documentation of vaccination status securely and available only to those required to have the information in compliance with all federal and state data privacy laws, rules and regulations including, without limitation, HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act ); and
F. An email notice to the Union that the Producer is implementing a mandatory vaccination policy is required as soon as practicable.

Section II of the agreement outlines procedures for vaccination status inquiries — for those companies that already have vaccination policies in place, and for those that don’t.

A. Mandatory Vaccination Policy in Place: A producer that has implemented a mandatory vaccination policy may only require a prospective employee to respond “yes” or “no” as to whether any of the following is true: The prospective employee is Fully Vaccinated OR has a sincerely held religious belief or disability that would prevent them from becoming Fully Vaccinated.

The offer of employment will be conditioned on verification of (i) Fully Vaccinated status (as set forth in Section I.E above) or (ii) disability or sincerely-held religious belief and a determination, after engaging in the legally-required interactive process, that the medical exemption or sincerely-held religious belief can be accommodated without undue hardship. However, an employee may be unable to be hired without a vaccination in those situations.

Transitional Period: Any Performer subject to this Addendum who receives the first vaccine shot (or only vaccine shot if using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) before October 4, 2021, and completes the course of vaccination within 6 weeks thereafter (including fulfilling the two-week waiting period after the second shot of Pfizer or Moderna Covid-19 vaccine) shall be authorized to work under a mandatory vaccination policy even if Performer is not yet Fully Vaccinated.

B. Mandatory Vaccination Policy in Place after Hire: On a production that implements a mandatory vaccination policy after Performers are hired, Performers that are not Fully Vaccinated or who, through the legally required interactive process, cannot be accommodated may be cancelled but must be compensated for all days booked and/or held.

C. No Mandatory Vaccination Policy in Place: On a production that has not implemented a mandatory vaccination policy, Producer may not inquire about vaccination status until after an offer of employment is made, but may thereafter require Performer to verify vaccination status prior to commencement of employment, including at the time of a pre-engagement Covid test, provided that the offer is not contingent upon Fully Vaccinated status.

D. Mandatory Vaccination at Audition Location: If a Performer scheduled by Producer (or by Producer’s casting director) to audition must be Fully Vaccinated to attend an in-person audition due to a facility or governmental requirement, Producer shall provide Performer with an opportunity to audition virtually. Performers shall not be asked or required to disclose their reason for requesting a virtual audition opportunity.

The guidelines note that “performers who are too young to receive a vaccine (currently, under 12 years old) shall not be subject to a mandatory vaccination policy at the present time, but must adhere to the Covid Safety Protocol Agreement during production and all casting sessions.” The guidelines also note that “fully vaccinated” currently means that at least 14 days have passed since the individual received a Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine shot or a second shot of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. New vaccines can be used in the future if they are approved by the FDA.

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