Wednesday, December 23, 2020

COVID-19 Vaccinations and the Workplace: What You Need to Know Right Now

Author: Dion Farganis


With two COVID-19 vaccines already authorized for emergency use in the United States and more likely forthcoming soon, employers are asking whether they can — and should — require employees to get vaccinated. This alert identifies some of the major issues that employers are likely to face when rolling out policies related to vaccinations. 


Can Employers Require Employees to Get Vaccinated?

Recently released guidance from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) strongly suggests that employers can require employees to get vaccinated. Although the guidance does not explicitly state that employer-mandated vaccinations are lawful, it addresses a range of issues confronting employers who have adopted a vaccination requirement policy. This suggests that the EEOC presumes mandatory vaccination policies can be lawful if administered properly.

Disability and Religious Accommodations

Employers who choose to mandate vaccinations may need to provide exemptions or reasonable accommodations to employees who are unable to get vaccinated because of a disability, or who object to vaccinations based on sincerely held religious beliefs. According to the EEOC, employers “cannot exclude the employee from the workplace — or take any other action — unless there is no way to provide a reasonable accommodation (absent undue hardship) that would eliminate or reduce … risk so the unvaccinated employee does not pose a direct threat” to the health or safety of others. Employers must undertake an interactive, case-by-case accommodation analysis for each employee who seeks an exemption from the vaccine on the basis of disability or religious beliefs. Options might include excusing the employee from the mandate altogether and permitting them to work in an isolated workspace or remotely, granting a leave of absence, or providing equipment or auxiliary aids addressing specific disability or religious obstacles to full employee compliance. 

Click here to view the full alert on Lathrop GPM’s website. Additional topics covered in this alert include, Issues Raised by Emergency Use Authorization, Encouraging Vaccinations through Wellness Program Incentives, Labor Relations Issues and more.

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