Can My Employer Make Me Get the COVID Vaccine?
The EEOC Has Issued New Guidelines About Vaccine Requirements at Work
Can your employer require that you get the COVID vaccine—and fire you if you refuse?
This is a tricky question, because there is no federal law that governs whether employers can mandate COVID vaccines for their employees. It’s more accurate to say that there’s no federal law saying that your employer can’t require a vaccine.
That said, some states and local municipalities are acting to prevent employers from requiring employees to get vaccinated.
Here’s where the most recent EEOC guidance stands on this issue.
Yes, Your Employer Can Require the Vaccine—With Some Exceptions
The EEOC recently released updated guidelines about whether your employer can mandate COVID vaccines at work. Their answer to this question is that, in general, yes—your employer can require that you get a COVID vaccine.
This is not a revolutionary position. It’s largely in line with employers’ ability to mandate other types of vaccines in the workplace, including flu vaccines.
However, there are some exceptions. Unless it presents an undue hardship, your employer must offer reasonable accommodations, in line with Title VII and the ADA, for those who do not want to be vaccinated because of certain disabilities or religious beliefs.
In addition, people in some demographic groups may have more trouble accessing the vaccine than others—and this is a reality that employers must contend with when mandating vaccines for all returning employees.
If the requirement impacts any group more than others based on their race, religion, national origin, sex, age, or skin color, the employer may have to defend their policy.
Examples of Reasonable Accommodations
What happens if you object to a vaccine mandate based on a pre-existing health condition or religious belief, as allowed under ADA or Title VII law?
When that happens, your employer may be required to offer you a reasonable accommodation—as long as it doesn’t present an undue hardship to them. For instance, they may allow you to return to work unvaccinated as long as you take one or more of the following actions:
- Get tested regularly for COVID-19
- Wear a face mask at all times
- Work at a desk that’s safely distanced from co-workers
- Work a different shift that’s less crowded
- Work from home
- Accept a reassignment to a different facility
Some States Have Been Trying To Prevent Vaccine Requirements
As employers try to decide how to get people back to work safely, some states have been moving to prevent them from requiring employees to get vaccinated. In Pennsylvania, lawmakers have introduced two pieces of legislation in this vein.
One, HB 262, would prohibit employers from taking any negative action against employees or job applicants because of their vaccination status. Another, SB 471, prohibits mandatory vaccinations by the state, political subdivisions, or as an employment requirement.
Both of these laws are still in committee as of this writing. Click here for more information on similar laws state-by-state.
Questions About Vaccines in the Workplace? Get In Touch With an Attorney
If you have questions about your employer’s vaccine policy, a qualified employment attorney can help answer them—and clarify your rights under Title VII and the ADA, based on your situation.
Call us at 267-273-1054 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free, confidential consultation today.
The information provided here does not constitute legal advice. It is intended for general purposes only. If you have questions about a specific legal issue, you should speak to an attorney.