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Can My Employer Require That I Receive A COVID-19 Vaccination—It Depends

Can My Employer Require That I Receive A COVID-19 Vaccination—It Depends

During the past year, employers and employees have had to deal with new and ever-changing circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic. From learning how to use Zoom to juggling working from home with children, people have had to adapt. With the increase in the availability of COVID-19 vaccinations, many people are naturally wondering if they will have to get a vaccination to return to work or stay at their current job.  So, can employers require their employees to get such a vaccination?

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently published some helpful commentary on this and other related questions. The EEOC enforces workplace anti-discrimination laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Genetic Information Act. It should be noted that other federal laws, as well as state and local laws, may provide employees with additional protections.

Under the ADA, an employer is limited from making disability-related inquires or requiring medical examinations. While, the EEOC has said a COVID-19 vaccination itself is not a medical examination, the pre-screening questions asked prior to administration of the vaccination could constitute disability-related inquires under the ADA. On the other hand, an employer simply asking an employee for proof of a COVID-19 vaccine is not a disability-related inquiry. However, the analysis of what is or is not a permissible disability-related inquiry under the ADA is beyond the scope of this article.

In certain circumstances, an employee can object to a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination claiming he or she has a disability or a religious belief preventing her from receiving a vaccination. Again, these are very fact-based and lengthy analyses, but generally if an employee cannot get vaccinated for COVID-19 because of a disability or sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance, and there is no reasonable accommodation possible, then it would be lawful for the employer to exclude the employee from the workplace. This does not mean the employer may automatically terminate the worker because employers will need to determine if any other employee rights apply under the EEO laws or other federal, state, and local authorities.

Employers and employees, if you would like assistance or guidance in dealing with any of these COVID-19 vaccination issues please contact the Employment attorneys of Bozeman, Neighbour, Patton & Noe, LLP.