Mandatory Employer Vaccinations
With many employers beginning to implement back-to-work procedures for their employees, the question of mandatory vaccinations has become a hot topic. We wanted to address the more frequent questions that have been asked by employers regarding this subject.
Can Employers Adopt a Mandatory Employee Vaccination Policy?
The answer here is yes. The EEOC ruled that mandatory vaccination programs are allowed. Both a federal court and the Department of Justice also indicated that such policies are permissible.
There are however exceptions:
• Employees with disabilities
• Those that might have a sincerely held religious belief, custom, or practice
Should an employee refuse to be vaccinated based on one of these grounds, the employer must engage in a process with the employee to make a reasonable accommodation in line with applicable law.
What Options Do Employers Have When Implementing a Policy?
Two approaches have become popular for employers when it comes to executing a plan for vaccinations.
1. The employer requires ALL employees to be vaccinated by a set date or in a certain timeframe. Vaccination status could affect employment whereby employment may be terminated, or a job offer withdrawn. Individuals may still be eligible for an exemption based on federal or state law.
2. The employer requires ALL employees to be vaccinated by a set date or in a certain timeframe. However, an employee will not be terminated if they choose to remain unvaccinated. Unvaccinated employees will be held to a higher standard of safety measures, often including routine Covid-19 testing. This is being labeled as a “soft mandate”
Can An Employer ask or require an employee to show proof of receipt of a COVID-19 vaccination?
Yes. Requesting proof of receipt of a COVID-19 vaccination is permissible. Employers should be careful not to request any disability-related information when requesting proof of receipt. Those types of inquiries are prohibited under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
A copy of the employee’s vaccination card or a self-attestation of vaccination status is sufficient proof. Employers should take proper care that the proof of vaccination is treated as medical information and kept confidential.
What Are Some Examples of “Reasonable Accommodations”?
In the event an employee cannot be vaccinated due to a disability or a religious belief or pregnancy, the following could be reasonable accommodations:
• Minimizing contact with coworkers
• Eliminating contact with the public
• Making remote working available
• Using face masks
• Periodic testing.
Must An Employer Have a Written Vaccine Policy?
If an employer is going to institute a vaccine requirement:
• It should be in writing
• It must include an exemption if an employee provides a valid disability-related or religious reason for not getting vaccinated
• It should have protocols in place for handling reasonable accommodation requests.