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Considering Mandatory COVID Vaccination? Here’s What You Need To Know

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It’s a new world, and things have changed rapidly. While there have been arguments for and against it, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has stated that employers can require employees to get the COVID vaccine if they want to remain on the job.

Without making this sound too harsh, the EEOC also added that employers that do so would need to reasonably accommodate employees who are against the vaccination due to health or religious reasons. This is key as you research and put together your covid-19 employee vaccination policy template.

The real question now is, should your business make the COVID vaccine mandatory?

We know the obvious benefits of requiring employees to get vaccinated, and if you do decide to implement this policy, make sure you know what’s needed for special exemptions and considerations — and more importantly, have a plan in place. These include:

Employees With Disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that employers must provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities. A business may choose not to do so if it can demonstrate the accommodation would create an undue hardship.

Reasonable accommodation may include adjusting the company policies, including requirements imposed by a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy. You will need to engage with the unvaccinated employee to identify the ideal workplace accommodations.

Employees With Conservative Religious Beliefs

The Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) states that employers must provide accommodations for employees with religious beliefs that may prevent them from complying with the mandatory policy. In addition, the law permits exceptions related to the employer’s undue hardship. Be prepared for a cumbersome process as defining a “sincerely held religious belief” can be notoriously difficult, and courts have reached a wide range of conclusions on what is a sufficient religious belief under Title VII.

Relevant Medical Information Under The ADA

The ADA typically frowns at disability-related questions from employers to their employees. Requiring COVID-19 vaccination according to your vaccine policy does not qualify as a medical examination. If you have mandatory vaccination programs and policies, you need to use caution with the questions asked.

The EEOC has even stated that pre-screening questions asking whether an employee has been vaccinated may be tagged as a disability-related inquiry. You must then be able to demonstrate the business necessity of these questions. Furthermore, information about an employee’s COVID-19 vaccination is confidential medical information under the ADA. Hence, you need to be careful not to violate the ADA’s confidentiality requirements when implementing workplace safety policies based on an employee’s vaccination status.

Wage Considerations For Taking Vaccines

The federal law states that employees may be entitled to compensable work time for their time spent waiting for and receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Ensure this is handled properly, as failure to meet the wage and hour requirements is often a costly mistake with consequences. Apart from being ethically ideal, providing paid leave to get vaccinated or recover from vaccine side effects may be required by state or local law. Note that practical law provides comprehensive coverage of paid sick leave, including leave relating to getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

According to the EEOC, while this might not be ideal, an employer can ban employees who refuse to get vaccinated from the workplace. Just don’t forget reasonable accommodation obligations or treat employees differently based on protected characteristics. Ensure you work closely together to address any significant concerns.