Can employers require their employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
Once a reliable COVID-19 vaccine is available, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is likely to permit employers to require vaccination against COVID-19 for employees who are not working remotely. It is unlikely, however, that employers will be required to implement vaccination programs.
The EEOC may decide to require an employer to provide a justification for a mandatory vaccine program, but at least as long as COVID-19 persists, it should be reasonably easy to demonstrate that a mandatory vaccine program is justified for workplaces in which individuals work closely together. Healthcare providers, for instance, have long required employees to be vaccinated for communicable diseases, including the flu. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, the EEOC has permitted other steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including required health screening, temperature checks, and contact tracing.
Employers who decide to implement mandatory vaccination programs should give thought to how to accommodate employees who must be excused from any mandatory vaccination program. Some employees may, for example, have health conditions that prevent them from being vaccinated. In those sorts of circumstances, employers might opt to sequester the unvaccinated employee from others at the worksite or allow the unvaccinated employee to work from home.
Last updated November 5, 2020
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