DHealthcare Source Article | Comments Courtesy of Matt Zavadsky
This has been a topic of discussion in some EMS and healthcare circles....
Can Employers Force Their Employees to Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine?
Advice from a labor and employment lawyer about getting back to work safely.
BY WILL MADDOX
NOVEMBER 4, 2020 9:00 AM
Can employers force their employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine? The WHO says it doesn’t expect widespread vaccinations until mid-2021, but employers are asking this and other questions about how it will impact their ability to get back to work or back into the office.
The short answer is yes. The federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) is likely to make it legal for an employer to require the vaccine if its employees come back to work, according to Sarah Montgomery, a labor and employment attorney with Jackson Walker. “There are probably going to be situations where a lot of employers are going to want to have a mandatory vaccination program,” she says. “The EEOC is likely going to say that mandatory vaccination programs are permitted because COVID-19 is a pandemic.”
Healthcare providers have long required its employees to be vaccinated for different diseases, get the flu shot, and other requirements because they will be caring for compromised patients. During the pandemic, the EEOC has been more lenient about what all employers can do regarding taking temperatures, contact tracing, and health screenings because of the direct threat of COVID-19. Most likely, the office will continue that trend and give employers the power to mandate a vaccine. Because an unvaccinated employee might pose a high risk to their co-workers, clients, or customers, an employer will have similar legal protection to require its employees to get a vaccine when it becomes available. “The EEOC may say that you need to have a justification to have a mandatory vaccine program,” Montgomery sats. “But if employers have individuals working closely together in a workplace, I think they’re going to be able to pretty easily justify why they would want a mandatory vaccine program.”
The reasoning behind the EEOC’s guidance was established during the Swine Flu pandemic when the commission decided that employers could do health screenings to prevent the disease’s spread without violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. “It’s certainly not the first time that these issues were on the radar,” Montgomery says.
Employers will most likely not be required to have a mandatory vaccination program, Montgomery says, but it will probably be permitted. Some employees will be excused from a potential requirement because of a medical condition. Employers will have to make accommodations for that employee by sequestering them away from everyone else or allowing them to work from home if possible, much like employers must accommodate those in a wheelchair or those who are pregnant.