The disruption caused by COVID-19 has been very costly. Employers are eager to return to “normal” as quickly as possible. COVID-19 vaccinations may offer a way for businesses to get back to normal. However, can employers force employees to take the COVID-vaccinations? What questions can employers ask employees about the vaccinations?
Can an Employer Force Employees to Get Vaccinated for COVID-19?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance for employers regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. Generally, employers may institute mandatory vaccination programs. However, many legal issues must be considered and addressed.
For instance, employers must provide reasonable accommodations for employees who hold sincere religious beliefs about vaccinations. If so, employers may be required to provide reasonable accommodations under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Problems may arise when defining a “sincerely held religious belief.” Legal disputes may also arise regarding an employer’s requirement to provide reasonable accommodations versus the accommodations creating an undue hardship for the employer.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. An employee with a disability may claim they should be exempt from a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination problem. The same problems may arise with reasonable accommodations under the ADA as they would for religious beliefs.
There are also questions related to asking certain employees about whether they are vaccinated against COVID-19. Asking questions about the vaccine could be interpreted as discriminating based on a protected class, such as religious beliefs or disabilities.
Can an Employee Fire an Employee for Not Being Vaccinated Against COVID-19?
According to the EEOC guidance, an employer can ban an employee from the workplace if they refuse to be vaccinated for COVID-19. However, employers should seek legal advice before firing an employee to avoid wrongful termination lawsuits.
As discussed above, an employee is entitled to certain protections based on the employee’s unique situation. Before firing an employee for refusing the COVID-19 vaccination, it may be best to consult an attorney. Employers need to ensure legal compliance with all employment laws before firing an employee.
Challenges to Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination Programs
Challenges are beginning to be filed against employers who require the COVID-19 vaccination for employees. The decisions in these cases will set precedents. We will continue to monitor new cases, regulations, and laws regarding an employer’s right to require the COVID-19 vaccination for employees.
Can Employers Offer Incentives for Employees to be Vaccinated?
Some employers may not want to initiate mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for employees. However, employers may want to encourage employees to obtain the vaccine. By law, employers are allowed to encourage and incentivize vaccinations for employees.
Ways that an employer can incentivize COVID-19 vaccinations for employees include:
- Offering paid time off for employees to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine
- Providing paid time off for employees who might experience side effects from the vaccine
- Offering cash and non-cash incentives to employees who obtain the vaccination
- Provide information about the safety and importance of the COVID-19 vaccine
As with other incentive programs, employers need to ensure they comply with HIPAA privacy laws, tax treatment, ERISA compliance, and other laws related to employee incentives.
Coral Springs Business Law Attorney
Attorney Matthew Fornaro works with companies and business owners on a wide variety of business law matters. Our legal team can help you with all of your business law matters, from employment law and business litigation matters to business formation and dissolution.
Call 954-324-3651 or contact us online to schedule an appointment with an experienced business law attorney in Coral Springs.