Monica Denler No Comments

The EEOC has recently issued updated guidance addressing COVID-19 vaccinations in the workplace. Many employers are asking, can we require our employees get a COVID-19 vaccine?

The EEO has responded – employers can adopt mandatory vaccination policies that require employees to get vaccinated as a condition of entering the workplace. However, the EEO mandates that employers also must attempt to accommodate employees who, due to disabilities or sincerely-held religious beliefs, decline or refuse to receive the vaccine.

If an employee refuses due to disability concerns, employer must first conduct an “individualized assessment” to determine whether having that employee unvaccinated in the workplace would pose a “direct threat” to health and safety within the meaning of the ADA. If the employer decides that the unvaccinated employee would pose a “direct threat,” the employer must next determine whether it can provide a reasonable accommodation to reduce this risk so that the employee no longer poses a “direct threat.” For example, the employer may want to consider whether enforcing infection control policies, such as mask-wearing and social distancing, would acceptably reduce any threat.

If the employer determines that there is no way to provide a reasonable accommodation that would prevent the employee from posing a “direct threat,” they can exclude the employee from entering the workplace. This is not an allowance to automatically terminate employment, however, and counsel should be sought.

If an employee objects to a vaccine on the basis of religious grounds, the employer must provide a reasonable accommodation for the religious belief, unless it would pose an “undue hardship” to the employer.

Vaccines are nothing new, though the COVID-19 vaccine most certainly is. As such, seek legal counsel to develop a vaccination policy should you so choose, and reach out to us prior to making an employment decision based on vaccination refusal.

View the EEOC’s guidance here: