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Can Employers Require Their Employees to Take the COVID-19 Vaccine?

CoAdvantage- The short answer is a qualified yes. Employers can require their employees to take the COVID-19 vaccine. 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance last December addressing this question. The bottom-line answer: yes, employers can mandate that employees get the vaccine.

However, such a mandate would introduce a host of legal (and logistical) considerations.

For one thing, any mandate must still comply with all applicable employment laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and more. “An employee with a religious objection or a disability may need to be excused from the mandate or otherwise accommodated,” attorney John Lomax told the Society for Human Resource Management. (For more information about accommodations related to COVID-19, see here.)

Lomax further adds that unionized workplaces may require an agreement with the union before a vaccination requirement can be put into place.

And employers definitely need to be prepared for resistance from employees. According to a survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Greenwald Research, 24% of employees say they will not get the COVID-19 vaccine, and another 12% remain unsure. In this environment, vaccination mandates are almost certain to spawn pushback and even litigation.

There are also logistical concerns: what happens if you require employees to get the vaccine and then, due to problems in vaccine distribution, they can’t actually get it? What happens if they get the first dose but not the second? How will you even track that information?

Instead of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate, it might be easier for employers to encourage and possibly incentivize vaccination rather than flat-out requiring it.  

·   Provide fact-based educational materials that the vaccines are safe and medically sound.
·   Cover any associated costs.
·   Permit paid time off for employees to get the vaccine.
·   Possibly provide additional incentives to employees who get the vaccine.

For more information, see Section K (and especially question K4) of the “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws” page at the EEOC website here. You can also find more help at the CoAdvantage COVID-19 Business Resource Center.

CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, benefits, payroll, and compliance. To learn more about CoAdvantage’s ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.