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Can Employers Require COVID-19 Vaccines?

Since the approval and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, Fausone Bohn's Employment Lawyers have received numerous inquiries from employers asking "Can I require my employees to receive the COVID-19 Vaccine?"

The short answer is yes, employers can require employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but this is a lot more complex than you would think. Generally, most employment relationships are at-will, which gives employers quite a bit of latitude in determining what the conditions of employment are going to be.

For quite some time, we have witnessed in certain industries, vaccinations of various kinds are already mandatory for employment.

For example, we see this in the health care industry where sometimes employees are required to be vaccinated for diseases like Hepatitis. So, this topic has been around for a while but is coming into the national spotlight due to the global health pandemic.However, what employers need to be aware of is there are certain exceptions to almost every rule. Even though an employer could require employees to obtain COVID-19 vaccinations, the exceptions are just as important and sometimes just as broad as the general rule. For example, if an employee has a legitimate religious objection to obtaining the vaccination, this needs to be taken into consideration and an accommodation may need to be made for them.

Similarly, some employees may have medical conditions that prevent them or cause complications for them in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. A legitimate disability may also be a reason why an employer needs to make an accommodation.

All these things should be kept in mind when considering requiring employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. In general, I think the approach that most employers will take their business is to encourage and facilitate employees receiving the vaccine, but not necessarily mandating it as a condition of employment.

Businesses will need to also consider the fact that some employees may have very strong objections to receiving the vaccine. As an employer, are you prepared to potentially lay off half of your workforce that does not want to be vaccinated? Or would you rather incentivize your employees in a certain way to be vaccinated?

From a liability standpoint, as an employer, if you are requiring employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, are you also opening yourself up to lawsuits if an employee has an adverse reaction to the vaccine. At times, vaccine litigation in this country has been very costly for employers, so it is something to take into consideration when drafting your COVID-19 Response and Vaccination Policies.

If your small business needs help drafting COVID-19 workplace policies or vaccination mandate guidelines, reach out to Employment Lawyer Brandon Grysko at Fausone Bohn. Brandon can be reached by email or by phone at (248) 380-0000.

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