Can You Require COVID-19 Vaccination of Your Employees?

As factories reopen, along with other businesses, companies are struggling to find a way forward. If you reconfigured your lines to keep your workers six feet apart, do you have to keep them that way, or can you reconfigure to increase production? If you staggered shifts to reduce the number of worker, can you go back to a more efficient pattern now? Do you still need to take temperatures at the door?

And, one of the biggest questions, can you require your workers to get vaccinated for COVID-19?

Since the Centers for Disease Control offer completely different guidance for fully vaccinated people than for unvaccinated people, the question may inform the answers to those other questions.

The Americans with Disabilities Act

The ADA comes up for this question because there is government guidance relating to vaccinations. The U.S. Equal Employment Commission developed these guidelines for influenza, but they have announced that the information applies to COVID-19 vaccines as well.

An employee may be entitled to an exemption from a mandatory vaccination requirement based on an ADA disability that prevents him from taking the influenza vaccine. This would be a reasonable accommodation barring undue hardship (significant difficulty or expense). Similarly, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, once an employer receives notice that an employee’s sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance prevents him from taking the influenza vaccine, the employer must provide a reasonable accommodation

This means that you can require your employees to get the vaccine, but that you also have to be open to accommodations for disabilities or religious objections.

The USEEC suggests that you “strongly encourage” rather than insisting the worker get vaccinations.

Strongly encourage

Holding a vaccination clinic at your facility is one of the mot effective ways to encourage vaccinations. The PREP Act protects employers from liability if they plan a clinic and engage licensed vendors to administer the vaccines. Getting your brother in law the pharmacist to come in and give some gas over a lunch break? That’s not so clear.

Check with your legal team before you take the route. However, it can help with many of the factors that can keep worker from getting their vaccinations, including transportation and childcare challenges. Some workers may have trouble getting vaccination appointments, since they usually must be arranged online, and others may fear that they will be asked to pay. All of these concerns are overcome by holding a workplace clinic.

Still, some workers may be scared to get their vaccines. Education is the best solution to the problem. Start well head of the clinic date, so you have time to share information. The CDC has a toolkit of materials to encourage worker to get their jabs, from reward stickers to a Fotonovela available in Spanish, English, and Haitian Creole.

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