Can Employers Require Employees To Get Vaccinated?
With a few exceptions, the answer is yes. Federal law states that your private employer can require employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. According to the EOCC, employers can require vaccinations much like public schools require their students to get a certain amount of vaccinations before they’re allowed to attend.
Who Legally Can’t Be Required:
The Title VII of the Civil Rights Act says that if an employee has a sincerely held religious belief that doesn’t agree with vaccination, the employer can’t force the employee to get the vaccination. That doesn’t include personal convictions, just religious beliefs.
If an employee does qualify for religious belief as a refusal, the employer then has to make reasonable accommodations for the employee. This could mean that the employee then works remotely. But the employer doesn’t have to make accommodations if it would be deemed too expensive or burdensome.
If an employee has a disability and cannot safely receive a vaccine, then under the Americans with Disabilities Act the employee qualifies for an exemption. This would require the employer to provide reasonable accommodations.
What Other Companies Are Doing
Multiple grocery stores have now offered a one-time bonus payment if their employees get the vaccine. Dollar General, Aldi, Trader Joe’s, and Instacart are offering the assistance so that they won’t lose wages while taking the time away from work in order to get the vaccine. While the payment varies by company, it does show a distinct trend towards encouraging all employees to get the vaccine.
Can I Be Fired If I Don’t Get The Vaccine?
Early in the pandemic, there was a lot of doubt about the safety of the vaccines that were coming out. Now that the FDA has given the vaccine emergency approval, it is much more up to the employers. The bottom line is that if the job requires the employee be in the physical workplace and no accommodation can be made, and if the employee poses a threat to others in the workplace, then yes, the employer can terminate the employee.
Just as employers can ask previously sick employees to take a Covid test before returning to work, they can also request that employees take the vaccine. Keeping track of who does or doesn’t get the vaccine could be an administrative nightmare. It’s much more likely that companies will strongly encourage vaccination. This may change, depending on the industry and location.
While companies, in general, may be hesitant about requiring their employees to get the vaccine, some are already making it a requirement for their customers. This cruise line out of the UK now requires all of their future passengers to get the vaccine at least 14 days before their cruise. Keep in mind that any private business can decide who to allow onto their private property. That includes airplanes, cruise ships, sports arenas, malls, etc. It’s the same legal right that private businesses have to request customers to wear a mask or to wear shirts and shoes. While the vaccine rollout is still in the early stages, it’s unlikely for companies to require them just yet. That will most likely change once vaccinations are available to everyone.
Whether employers require the vaccine or simply encourage it, it’s expected that there will be pushback. While employers may offer incentives to encourage the vaccine, there will likely be a percentage of the population that won’t get it. They may lose their jobs in order to avoid it.
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