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Can Employers Require the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Jan 14 | 2021  by

Since the approval and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, Fausone Bohn, LLP’s Employment Law team has received many inquiries from business owners wondering the same thing:

Can Employers Require COVID-19 Vaccinations?

The short answer is yes, employers can require employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but it is a lot more complicated 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 employees may be required to be vaccinated for diseases like Hepatitis.

Exceptions to Mandatory Vaccinations

This question has been floating around for quite some time but is only now coming into the spotlight due to the COVID-19 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 accommodations must be made for them. 

Similarly, some employers 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.

What You Should Keep in Mind

All of these factors should be kept in mind when you or your business is deciding whether to require employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. In general, we think the approach 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 lay off half of your workforce in that situation? Or would you rather incentivize your employees in a certain way to receive the vaccine?

As an employer from a liability standpoint, if you are requiring your workers to receive the vaccine, are you also opening yourself up to lawsuits if a worker has a negative reaction? In this country, vaccine litigation has been very costly for employers, so this must be considered when drafting your COVID-19 Response and Vaccination Policies

If your small to medium-sized business needs help drafting a COVID-19 response or vaccination policy, reach out to Employment Attorney Brandon Grysko at Fausone Bohn, LLP. Brandon can be reached by email or by phone at (248) 380-0000.