Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies across the globe have been working to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. As the pandemic continues on and vaccines become available, employers must navigate the inherent legal risks and logistics of mandating or encouraging employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
So, can employers require their employees to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine?
The short answer is yes, some employers can mandate that employees get a COVID-19 vaccine. In recently released guidance, the EEOC confirms that employers can require that employees obtain the COVID-19 vaccine and require proof from employees of the vaccination under certain circumstances. Employers who plan to go this route will want to show that an unvaccinated employee would be a significant threat to the health or safety to themselves or other employees.
There are, of course, some exceptions. Employers should consider ADA and religious accommodations when requested by employees and be prepared to offer reasonable accommodations. This means that employers who are subject to the ADA or applicable antidiscrimination laws should not automatically terminate employees who refuse the vaccine without first considering the ADA.
If you have decided to implement a mandate for the COVID-19 vaccine for your employees and an employee refuses the vaccine, please reach out to Helpside for assistance navigating ADA and religious accommodations.
As you consider what is best for your company, take a moment to consider the following:
- You have time to make a decision. The general population may not have access to the vaccine for several months, so you have time to consider your options. It wouldn’t be practical to require something of employees that would be difficult (if not impossible) to do. Making a decision now may be premature.
- Think about logistics. Will you hold an onsite vaccination clinic? If so, which vaccine will be used? Who will pay for vaccines? Will you encourage (and pay) for family members to receive vaccines as well? Will there be a deadline for receiving the vaccine? Who will be tracking compliance?
- Even if the company is paying for the vaccine, employees may decline it for many reasons. If you are leaning toward requiring the vaccine, you will need to think about what you will do if employees decline the vaccine. Are there steps you can take other than termination?
- Are there incentives you can provide to employees instead? In place of a mandate that may require you to terminate employees who do not comply, are there incentives you can offer that encourage employees to get vaccinated? Business can educate employees, pay for vaccines, offer paid time off to employees to get the vaccine, or offer other incentives that may be more successful than a mandate.
The most important thing to remember right now is that there is still a lot that is unknown. You have time to consider the best decisions for your company. Take that time to consider your options and determine the best way to reach your goals. It is wise to seek legal counsel, particularly if you are leaning to mandating the vaccine.