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. – If you’ve been dreaming of going back to the office, the promising news of a COVID-19 vaccine could mean you’ll be back at your desk sooner than you thought.
There are obvious benefits to having a workforce that has been immunized against the coronavirus, but can your employer require you to get vaccinated?
Some workers may be hesitant about receiving a vaccination or feel uncomfortable that their employer has a say in their medical decisions.
But legal experts say employers can require their employees to be vaccinated. Whether you should, is a different matter.
Some jobs already have vaccination requirements. For example, some healthcare workers need to get a flu shot.
“This idea that vaccines can be mandatory is well established,” said Jay Rosenlieb, partner and chairman of the Labor and Employment Group at the California law firm Klein DeNatale Goldner.
– BioNTech and Pfizer will request emergency authorization for the covid-19 vaccine this Friday
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There are federal protections that indicate that the coronavirus vaccine may not be mandatory
Once the covid vaccine is available, experts believe that some employers will likely require workers to get it.
“I fully hope that there are employers who choose to make it mandatory,” said David Barron, Cozen O’Connor employment attorney.
But federal protections may allow for some exceptions. Workers with underlying medical conditions may be exempt, under the Americans with Disabilities Act. And Title VII of the Civil Rights Act could allow employees with “sincere” religious beliefs against a vaccine to seek accommodations.
In these circumstances, employers would have to provide reasonable accommodation. That could mean the employee being allowed to work from home or wear personal protective equipment in the office along with other health and safety measures, according to Rosenlieb.
You would not be protected by not wanting to get the vaccine for moral or political reasons.
But making vaccination mandatory could open up an employer to potential workers’ compensation claims if an employee suffers any negative side effects. And that could prevent some companies from making it a mandatory condition of employment.
“If an employee has an adverse reaction to a mandatory vaccination, that could at least become a workers’ compensation claim,” Rosenlieb said.
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A public relations problem
Forcing employees to get the vaccine could also create a public relations headache for the company.
“Employees love to discuss political issues, and a vaccine mandate is going to stimulate that discussion,” Rosenlieb noted. That talk could seep outside the company walls and onto social media.
“The employer is then exposed to conversations on social media that they might not otherwise want to be exposed to,” added Rosenlieb.
Instead of a vaccination mandate, employers could try to encourage and motivate employees to get vaccinated.
«I don’t think anyone wants to impose it. They just don’t want the bad vibes that come from a mandatory show, ”Rosenlieb said.
The expert suggested that employers take a multi-pronged approach: allow workers to receive the vaccine on time from the company, have top leaders promote that they got vaccinated, and have the union promote the vaccine.
He also said that workers who do not receive the vaccine should not be discriminated against.