As companies like Pfizer and Moderna announce breakthroughs in COVID-19 vaccines, Jackson Walker partner Sarah Mitchell Montgomery spoke on WFAA-TV and its “Y’all-itics” podcast about whether employers can require on-site workers to get vaccinated and why she expects a future rise in coronavirus-related litigation.
In her interview on the “Y’all-itics” podcast, Sarah noted that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance on pandemic preparedness during the 2009 H1N1 virus outbreak that allowed employers to require vaccinations, but exceptions had to be made for employees with certain disabilities or religious beliefs.
“We anticipate the EEOC is going to take the same position with the COVID-19 vaccine,” Sarah said. “It’s possible they could actually say you can require the vaccine and there are no exceptions to it.”
Should the EEOC allow exceptions, Sarah pointed out that the process for allowing an employee to refuse the vaccine would need to be interactive.
“The employer is going to have to talk to that employee, whether it’s because they have a disability or a sincerely held religious belief, and try to accommodate that employee if it’s possible,” she advised. “That may not be possible to do in a safe way.”
For additional insights, view the following:
- “Right on the Money: Employers waiting for guidance on which workers they can require to get a vaccine,” WFAA-TV (December 1, 2020)
- “The Holiday Workplace During COVID-19,” Jackson Walker Fast Takes Podcast (November 11, 2020)
- “Can Employers Force Their Employees to Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine?” D CEO Magazine (November 4, 2020)
Sarah Mitchell Montgomery is an employment law attorney with substantial experience representing employers and management in complex cases involving employment discrimination, retaliation and unfair practices and related workplace and business disputes. Sarah regularly assists clients on challenging work-related issues, including high risk discipline and termination scenarios, managing leaves of absence, navigating issues raised by Title VII, the FMLA, the ADA, the ADEA, USERRA and workers’ compensation statutes, investigating allegations of harassment and discrimination, drafting and updating affirmative action plans, and creating and implementing effective and compliant employee-related policies and procedures.