With the spread of COVID-19 and the creation of the vaccines, many people are wondering what’s legal in regard to vaccination and enforcement policies. Specifically in the United States, there’s a large conversation ongoing about whether companies can require vaccines as well as the rights and policy enforcement of employers. As such, this article aims to help everyone understand if companies can require their employees to be vaccinated.
In simple terms, the United States does allow employers to require vaccinations at work for any employees that physically enter the workplace for a number of viruses and diseases. Can employers require their employees to be vaccinated? Yes—but it’s not as simple as just making a policy. There are a host of legal restraints on companies which ensure worker rights and safety when requiring vaccinations. These restraints are key to understanding when can companies require their employees to be vaccinated.
When a business mandates vaccines, companies must use reasonable accommodations in accordance with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines. This means employees have the time to get the vaccine and the company should do its best to accommodate anyone who refuses the vaccine. This includes running a risk assessment on the employee to see if they endanger others and letting them work from home or take a leave of absence, as long as the accommodation doesn’t cause undue hardship to the company.
Legal Reasons for Refusal To Vaccinate
There are two major reasons why someone can refuse a vaccine the EEOC recognizes as legitimate claims. The first claim is because of medical safety, such as pregnancy, where the vaccine may harm the employee. The second reason is a sincere religious belief held by the employee, which requires documentation and a legal process. If either of these reasons are met, then companies should make accommodations for their employees where possible. However, the company doesn’t need to accommodate workers who don’t have legitimate reasons for refusal and can fire them.
Now, the biggest part of requiring vaccinations is keeping a record of the immunizations your employees have already. That’s why a lot of companies use immunization tracking systems which help organize worker immunization status and help companies enforce their policies.