After a year of living with the Coronavirus, there’s hope that the end of the pandemic is in sight. Three vaccines have been approved for use in the U.S., and over 70 million Americans have received at least one dose of a vaccine. But the arrival of the vaccine has some business owners wondering if they should mandate that their employees get the vaccine. And workers are wondering if an employer can ask their vaccine status, or refuse to hire them if they choose not to receive the vaccine. We found out what experts are saying.
From a legal standpoint can an employer ask if their workers have been vaccinated? According to The Washington Post, yes. “
Attorneys say not only can employers ask their employees whether they have been vaccinated, but they can also request proof of vaccination. This comes from recent guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces federal nondiscrimination laws in the workplace.”
Can you be fired if you refuse to get a vaccine? According to the AARP, the short answer is “yes.” Dorit Reiss, a law professor at the University of California, Hastings, told them, “Employment in the United States is generally ‘at will,’ which means that your employer can set working conditions. Employers can set health and safety work conditions, with a few limits.”
What should employers consider before instituting a mandatory vaccine policy? While the short answer is yes you can fire employees who refuse to get vaccinated, the long answer is much more complicated. Claude Schoenberg, an employment attorney based in Pennsylvania told The Guardian to check insurance coverage before mandating vaccines. “You need to know what protection you might have in case an employee suffers an adverse reaction to a mandated Covid vaccine. You should consider whether that amount of insurance protection is sufficient.” He also recommends considering what would happen if employees resist vaccination due to their religious leanings or a valid medical reason and also how such a vaccination policy would be implemented. “Will an employer offer Covid vaccination on-premises and at employer cost?” he asks. “Will these vaccinations occur during working hours? Will the employer pay employees for time spent receiving a mandatory Covid vaccination?”
Keep in mind, for many companies this is uncharted territory. It’s important to have written policies in place. If you’re having difficulty writing a policy, the HR experts at VersaTel Solutions will be able to help. Contact us for help with this, or any other policies and procedures you need documented and implemented.