Back to Business: Can Your Workplace Require the COVID Vaccine?

With COVID variants now becoming more prevalent throughout the US, businesses have to begin questioning their return to work policies.

It’s hard. COVID keeps changing. The CDC continues to adapt. And not all information is necessarily known about COVID.

So let’s talk about some of the most important considerations as you decide how to handle your approach to the COVID vaccination:

1. Can You Require Employees to Have the Vaccination?

Yes. Federal law appears to support the right of both the Federal government and private employers to require employees to get vaccinated.

Employees have the right to refuse. But they don’t have any legal protection after that.

At the same time, if the employee has a disability, medical condition, or sincerely held religious belief, civil rights laws may entitle them to legal protection.

And finally, the employer must make reasonable accommodations if an employee refuses the vaccination based on the previously mentioned grounds.

This comes from Sharon Persley Masling, an employment lawyer in charge of the COVID task force at the law firm Morgan Lewis.

Exemptions to the vaccine actually have quite broad protection. For example, courts have determined that veganism constitutes a religion. An employee would be protected from having to get a vaccine containing any animal product, for example.

2. Employment Lawyers Expect Businesses to Compromise

Some industries, like the medical industry, are taking the strong stance that their employees need to get vaccinated…or lose their jobs.

But on the whole, businesses are still figuring out how they want to respond to the COVID vaccine.

Employment lawyers expect that businesses, for the most part, will compromise with employees.

You’ll have to decide what that looks like at your business. But, remote work is quite easy to implement here in 2021.

It respects the rights of all involved. And everyone stays safe. Plus, many studies show that employees who work from home are happier and more productive.

3. A Better Way to Make Vaccinations Happen

Simply requiring your employees to get the vaccination is an easy wand to wave. But, in terms of practical results, it may not get you what you want.

A better approach may be to encourage the vaccine and incentivize the behavior. For example, David Bronner of Dr. Bronner’s Soaps, is offering employees a $1000 bonus for getting the vaccine.

Dr. Bronner really did not want to create a negative us-versus-them situation.

It’s definitely not an easy thing to decide what to do with the COVID vaccination. However, you can create a win-win situation that works for everyone.

Be willing to make changes and accommodations of your own. It’ll keep your employees, and your revenue, safe during a tumultuous time.