While there is no law or regulation specific to mandatory vaccinations for COVID-19, there is existing guidance. Generally speaking, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission allows employers to mandate vaccines, so long as certain requirements are met and exceptions are made.
While many employers are choosing to go the optional route for now, some employers are mandating employee vaccinations.
How can an employer mandate vaccinations?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows employers to have a requirement that an individual shall not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of individuals in the workplace. State law may change this and employers in multiple states must know the law in every state they operate.
Employers must also be aware of existing exceptions. Some of these include:
- a unionized workforce, which would require an opportunity to bargain;
- an existing employment agreement with terms to the contrary;
- a disability or medical condition under the ADA; or
- a religious exception pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
If an employee is asking for an accommodation pursuant to the ADA or Title VII, the employer may need to engage in an interactive process to identify reasonable accommodations and provide accommodations where possible.
Prior to making a mandatory vaccination policy, there is much to consider. Employers should develop a vaccination policy and procedure and a policy and procedure for requesting accommodations for religious or medical reasons. Employers should also consider liability and implications if the employee has an adverse reaction or must take time off due to side effects.
Many employers have chosen to make vaccines optional due to staffing concerns, employee morale, state law considerations, and/or employees’ hesitation given the Emergency Use Authorization for the vaccines.
Source: Rickard & Associates, one of TPA's Affiliate Partners, is a full-service law firm assisting practices with a range of business operations.