With the various COVID-19 vaccines become more widely available to the working age population, employers are likely considering whether or not to require their employees receive the vaccine. In general, employers may require employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or any vaccine for that matter. That being said, if an employer elects to institute a vaccine requirement, the employer must provide a reasonable accommodation to those who have a disability which would prevent them from receiving the vaccine or an individual who has a sincerely held religious belief. Determining the nature of the employee’s disability and the sincerely held religious belief can be difficult and employers may want to consult their legal counsel before doing so. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recommends that “Employers and employees should engage in a flexible, interactive process to identify workplace accommodation options that do not constitute hardship (significant difficult or expense).”
Before instituting a vaccine requirement, employers may want to consider how the requirement will be enforced, the possible response from employees, and whether there are other flexible alternatives to such a requirement. Instead of requiring that employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine, they may want to consider providing an inventive for an employee to be vaccinated or provide information about the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.
While the COVID-19 vaccine may be new, the question of whether employers may require employees to be vaccinated are not and there is a wealth of information available to help employers navigate this area of law. If you have questions about the connections between the COVID-19 Vaccine and the law, contact Jim Whitlatch and Ryan Heeb.