As the Delta variant continues to ravage the United States, and with only 57% of the population fully vaccinated, there’s a growing push to get more shots in arms. While some businesses continue to operate in a virtual environment, others are making plans for when employees return to the office.
In turn, several employers have now made Covid vaccinations a requirement to resume in-person working. Big names such as Google, Netflix, and Twitter all require employees to be vaccinated and show proof of vaccination before returning to the office.
Just a few months ago there were all sorts of questions and confusion as to whether companies could legally require employees to be vaccinated. Today, we have much more clarification as to whether employers can require employees to get vaccinated before returning to work.
Yes, Employers Can Require Covid Vaccinations
Another component of the shifting landscape on vaccines is their expected full approval by the Food and Drug Administration. The vaccines are currently administered under an emergency use authorization, so full approval could alleviate concerns over their safety — and encourage even more organizations to make them a requirement.
Even though none of the Covid vaccines have received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), employers can still make the vaccine a requirement for continued employment.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), all companies are within their legal rights to require their workforce to get vaccinated. This includes local, state, and federal governments.
In late July, President Biden announced that all federal workers and contractors are required to show proof of vaccination. If they don’t, they must adhere to social distancing, masking, and weekly testing. The United States military has also instituted specific guidelines for active-duty troops.
There Are Exceptions
Under new vaccine requirements, not everyone will have to get vaccinated. Those who can’t get a vaccine due to religious beliefs or a disability will be granted an exception from these mandates. However, it’s likely that employers will require them to follow strict guidelines to minimize the risk of spreading the virus.
As explained by Joel Friedman, a Tulane University law professor, “I think probably what these companies are thinking — for those individuals — requiring them to be masked, or constantly tested, is a reasonable accommodation.”
Other possible accommodations include allowing these employees to continue to work remotely until the workspace is deemed safe for them to return.
Incentives Are on the Rise
In a push to encourage more people to get vaccinated, companies have implemented incentive programs ranging from cash incentives, reduced insurance contributions, and additional PTO.
In May 2021, the EEOC issued guidance that employers may offer limited incentives to employees. The only caveat is that incentives must not be coercive. However, there is still uncertainty as to whether these incentives possibly violate federal anti-discrimination laws.
As we enter another stage of the pandemic, we can expect Covid vaccine mandates to continue to dominate the news.
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