Can I Require Employees To Get A COVID-19 Vaccination?

Last Updated on December 21, 2020 by G. T. HR

The COVID-19 vaccine has created a new buzz. With hope comes concern and many questions are already beginning to be asked. As COVID-19 vaccines become available, many employers are asking if they can require employees to get vaccinated, and what they can do if workers refuse.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) weighed in with new guidance that answers some workplace vaccination questions.

Essentially, employers may encourage or possibly require COVID-19 vaccinations, but policies must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII of the Civil Righs Acto fo 1964 and other workplace laws, according to the EEOC.

Should I implement a COVID-19 vaccination policy in my business?

The first reaction many employers have to news of FDA approvals for COVID-19 vaccines is whether they can adopt policies requiring workers to take the vaccine and come back to the workplace – the next questions they will have is how they will do this, and should they?

This decision should be considered carefully. A mandatory vaccine policy as a condition of returning to work raises a number of questions and concerns for employers to consider.

Some of the concerns or questions may be as follows:

  • What if an employee objects to the vaccine because of a medical condition making them more susceptible to allergic reactions?
  • What if the employee has objections based on their religious beliefs?
  • What if employees are just scared of the vaccine in general because it was developed so quickly?
  • What if instead we think some employees just like staying home to work?
  • How do employers handle the timing of the vaccine, which may require two doses over a period of weeks before being effective?
  • What if a group of employees oppose this requirement together in a collective fashion?
  • What if employees take to social media to voice their objections?
  • What if an employee has a bad reaction?  Will the employer have any legal protections?

There may be no “perfect cure” to the mandatory vaccine policy predicament, but on December 16, 2020, the EEOC issued new guidance for employers.  The guidance leaves many unanswered questions but is a step in the right direction. The guidance is summarized on the EEOC webpage.

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