When it comes to the COVID vaccine, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Or can you? As COVID vaccines are more available, how should employers approach handling employee vaccinations? Can companies require that their employees take the vaccine? We have answers for employers that they need to know this year.
Employers and the COVID-19 Vaccine
The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) quotes a Los Angeles attorney as saying, “Employers may require vaccines before employees return to the worksite if the failure to be vaccinated constitutes a direct threat to other employees.” There are exceptions to this rule, such as employees that can’t be vaccinated due to religious beliefs or those with disabilities. The attorney also stated, “Employers do not have to accommodate secular or medical beliefs about vaccines.”
There are issues related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities that do not or cannot receive the vaccine. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires reasonable accommodations for individuals who refuse the vaccine-related to sincerely held religious beliefs.
Should I Require My Employees to Get the Vaccine?
With that said, some companies may have strong and compelling reasons for requiring vaccinations. There are issues involving risk to customers, other employees, or the general public that make a compelling case for an employer vaccine mandate. Healthcare organizations or forward-facing businesses such as retail may determine the COVID-19 shot is more of a necessity than other types of businesses.
Companies should carefully consider all of the ramifications of considering a vaccine mandate or even coming out as “pro-vaccine” before determining how to talk with their employees about the inoculation. Some employees may look for another job before agreeing to take the shot, for example. There are public relations and employment ramifications that must be considered. The SHRM article even talks about the liability issues surrounding the opposite approach of requiring workers to be on-site but not requiring vaccines. If a mandatory vaccination policy isn’t imposed, could employees suggest that the employer created an unsafe working environment—which is a requirement of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
What’s the Best Way to Approach Discussing the Vaccine?
Before setting policies or talking with your employees, take careful consideration of all these rules and the possible outcomes should be considered. It’s a good idea to discuss these issues with your legal counsel to set policies for which approach is best for your company. Defining new workflows around employees who refuse a mandated vaccine due to a religious or disabilities issue should be a priority. For example, the ADA says that employers can request information from the employee seeking an accommodation. The employer can even require the employee to provide information from their doctor to confirm their disability or limitation.
We Can Help You Navigate These Difficult Times
Depending upon your policies, a staffing agency like ADD STAFF can work closely with HR teams to ensure new employees are fully prepared for the environment you’ve established. Talk with our team today to find out how we can help you meet your hiring goals.