Can Employers Require a COVID-19 Vaccine?
To ensure a safe, healthy and productive workforce, employers across the country are looking for ways to encourage their employees to receive COVID-19 vaccine.
Workplace Vaccination Program
Since COVID-19 vaccines are considered as EUA-approved (Emergency Use Authority) product, the employers are obligated to inform the employees of the following:
- Vaccination options and the right to refusal.
- Possible adverse effects of the vaccination.
- Consequences of refusing a vaccination.
- Available alternatives to a COVID-19 vaccine.
However, in the absence of state, government, and local laws that allow employers to mandate for COVID-19 vaccination, here are legal ways that employers can take to increase COVID-19 vaccine uptake in the workforce.
Explain the purpose of vaccination to your employees and how it aligns with the goals for the organization.
Employers and business owners should highlight how vaccination prevents COVID-19 illness and how it can reduce absences and increase productivity and company performance, which can eventually lead to better morale.
Let employees know that a healthy workforce also means one that will most likely remain in business, especially during times of crisis. Nearly 200,000 U.S. businesses closed due to COVID-19, according to a report from the Federal Reserve. This is why the last thing an employee needs is to be out of work because their employer was forced to close due to of a COVID outbreak.
Provide exemptions and the option to refuse.
Employees have the right to refuse a vaccine without explanation.
Until today, the U.S. FDA has not yet classified COVID-19 vaccines as fully-approved vaccines. On the flipside, they’re restricted by the Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) and has not received vaccination mandate from the Food and Drug Administration.
Should employees consent to vaccination, the law protects their privacy and ensures that the employer cannot mandate their employees provide any medical information as part of the proof of their capacity to work.
Note that employees have the right to refuse vaccination mandate based on the following grounds:
Exemption due to disability
Under the Americans Disability Act, employees can refuse vaccination based on an ADA disability that prevents them from taking the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 guarantees that when an employer receives notice that an employee’s religious belief, practice, or observance prevents him from taking the COVID-19 vaccine, the employer should provide a reasonable accommodation unless it would pose an undue hardship. Note that employees are merely encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccine and not being required to do so.
Employees don’t feel safe
There are many businesses facing lawsuits for not providing a safe working environment for employees due to COVID-19.
Use the CDC tool kit for businesses resuming their operations. Enforce workplace health and safety measures are followed such as ensuring well-ventilated spaces, handwashing areas, social distancing measures and the use of facemasks.
Involve your staff in getting your business ready to resume operations.
Let your employees know that a COVID-19 vaccination is just one of your safety measures and that strict health protocols will be enforced and observed, within legal requirements.
Offer incentives to employees
While employers can’t force their staff to submit to a COVID-19 vaccine, many are encouraging vaccinations by offering perks. Some employers are giving bonuses, more vacation time, and paid leave.
The federal government is offering businesses tax incentives for giving their employees paid leave to get and recover from a COVID-19 vaccination.
Some major chains are incentivizing vaccination by giving customers freebies like food, discounts and sports gear.
If you have questions about the legality of requiring employees to receive COVID-19 vaccination and you want expert opinion, contact us today and we’ll be happy to provide you with our expert legal advice.