With COVID-19 Vaccine on the Horizon, Legal Questions Confront Employers

November 13, 2020

Reports of Pfizer’s successful COVID-19 vaccine trial raise the possibility that a vaccine could soon be ready for widespread distribution, generating a host of logistical and legal questions for employers.  HR Policy has developed a brief outlining several of these issues.

Can employers require employees to get vaccinated?  While the short answer is yes, there are myriad legal questions associated with implementing a mandatory vaccine policy under several different federal and state labor and employment laws.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act both present exemption and accommodation issues for employers.  Under the ADA, an employer may have to provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee whose disability prevents them from receiving the vaccine.  A similar accommodation may be required for employees with a religious exemption under Title VII. 

OSHA allows for mandatory flu vaccination policies, but emphasizes that employers must properly apprise their employees of the benefits of such vaccinations. 

Under the National Labor Relations Act, if multiple employees refuse to be vaccinated or otherwise protest an employer’s mandatory vaccine policy, they may be protected from adverse employment actions.  Further, in unionized workplaces, employers may be required to first bargain with their employees’ union before implementing a mandatory vaccination policy. 

Click here for a full breakdown of the legal issues associated with requiring employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Outlook:  While it may still be a few months before a COVID-19 vaccination is widely available, employers should begin to prepare for an approved vaccine and the related logistical and legal questions. 

On December 3rd, HR Policy will be conducting a COVID-19 vaccine webinar featuring legal experts and industry leaders.  Stay tuned for more details.