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Can I Require My Employees to Get a COVID Vaccine?

March 22, 2021

Employers and businesses can require employees to get a COVID vaccine, but it’s not as straightforward as it sounds.

Guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission allows employers to set “a requirement that an individual shall not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of individuals in the workplace.”

Exemptions exist for employees with disabilities and sincerely held religious beliefs. An employer must seek reasonable accommodation for those employees.

However, despite the EEOC guidance, there remain some questions related to workplace COVID-19 vaccination mandates because none of the vaccines have been formally approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Rather, the FDA approved the vaccines under an emergency authorization. Some argue that because the vaccines have not been formally approved, it may not be legal to require one.

The emergency authorization has not stopped some employers and businesses from instituting vaccine requirements for employees including medical providers and nursing homes. Although, such mandates have been met with mixed reactions, including widespread employee resignations and lawsuits.

What alternatives can I explore instead of a vaccine requirement?

If your business would rather avoid any potential headaches from a vaccine mandate, you have several alternatives to encourage vaccination such as:

• Create an educational campaign communicating why your organization is encouraging vaccination.

• Provide accommodation or assistance for employees to sign up for their shots.

• Offer incentives like gift cards, cash bonuses or a day off for getting vaccinated.

• Provide additional PTO to get vaccinated and any recovery time needed from potential side effects.

As vaccine rollouts continue and shots become available to more of their employees, businesses must carefully evaluate and determine the right approach that best fits their particular circumstances and operational needs.

If you need help in determining the right approach to take with employee vaccinations, the experienced team at Lovitt & Touché can assess your situation and guide you toward the best path for your business. Learn more about our full suite of business insurance offerings.