Will your employer require you to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

WUSA9 reached out to a labor law attorney to discuss how likely it is. What exceptions could there be? What if you feel uncomfortable?

WASHINGTON – People around the world are eagerly awaiting a COVID-19 vaccine that will hopefully slow the spread of the pandemic and eventually stop it entirely.

However, some are concerned about the challenges that will arise when a vaccine is mass distributed.

Veronica Morris, of Hyattsville, Md., Texted and asked what rights employers have over the vaccine.

TEXT WUSA9 YOUR QUESTIONS at (202) 895-5599.

WUSA9 reached out to labor law attorney Ryen Rasmus at the Lipp law firm to discuss whether employers can require workers to receive COVID-19 vaccinations when they are available, how likely it is, and what exceptions might exist.

CONNECTED: UN chief health officer: The world can dream of the end of the pandemic

Can an employer require an employee to receive one of the new COVID-19 vaccines as soon as they become available?

Your employer may need a new COVID-19 vaccine. However, there is no certainty of what to expect at the moment.

“The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which administers the federal laws most likely to play a role in workplace vaccination issues, has not yet issued specific guidance on COVID-19,” Rasmus said in a statement.

“However, based on the guidance previously issued by the EEOC in connection with the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic, it is likely that employers will be able to require vaccines for their employees, but must include certain exemptions based on applicable law.”

Q: What are the exceptions?

ONE: If an employee has a medical reason not to have a vaccination under American with Disability Act, an employer probably can’t request it anyway. This would also apply if someone can demonstrate that they have religious beliefs that are against vaccination. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, an employer would likely have to resort to reasonable accommodation, e.g. B. Permission from an employee to continue working remotely.

However, both situations would have to be proven by the employee.

“Note that the mere discomfort with the idea of ​​vaccination is not enough to qualify an employee for placement. Staff must demonstrate that they have a serious diagnosis of a condition that makes vaccination risky or a genuine religious belief about vaccination. “

RELATED: “Nobody Wants to Be a Guinea Pig” | Hesitation about vaccines shares health workers

Q: For example, can an employee who qualifies for an exception request the option to work from home forever or have their own office built?

ONE: Even those who qualify for accommodation are not guaranteed to get a specific accommodation they personally prefer.

“Accommodation only needs to be reasonable, ie if the requested accommodation would put a significant strain on the employer’s business, the employer does not have to offer it. If an employee is unable or unwilling to perform the employee’s duties despite the fact that his employer has taken reasonable precautions, the employer may take negative action against the employee, including termination of his employment relationship. “

Q: Will this change across the DC metro area?

ONE: Rasmus stated that Virginia, Maryland, and DC all have state laws that prohibit workplace discrimination based on religion and disability that are similar to federal laws.

Q: So an employer might need a vaccine … but is that likely?

ONE: Just because your employer can do this doesn’t mean it will, according to Rasmus.

“Because both ADA and Title VII analyzes are fact-specific and can result in significant penalties for employers if misused, many employers are expected to strongly encourage vaccination rather than compulsory programs with the necessary exceptions.”

Q: Regardless of whether someone is strongly encouraged or needed, what options do employees have if they are uncomfortable with being vaccinated?

ONE: “One of the first options would be to see a doctor to ensure that the employee has a full and accurate understanding of the potential health effects of a vaccine, as employers are likely to require documentation from a doctor when an employee is seeking accommodation in the framework the ADA, ”explained Rasmus.

“If an employee has an ADA-protected state of health or a religious belief protected by Title VII and wishes to seek accommodation, the employee should let their employer know as soon as possible.”

It can also be helpful to have an honest conversation with an employer about vaccination concerns to determine what options are possible.

“Employers can voluntarily set up accommodation for employees who only want to refuse vaccination for personal reasons. These accommodations could include the ability to work from home, a dedicated work area in the office away from others, the provision of personal protective equipment, etc., ”said Rasmus.

Q: Which employers are more likely to need a vaccine?

ONE: Rasmus said it was more likely that some larger employers – especially in high-contact industries like hospitals, schools, and retail – would have mandatory vaccination guidelines. “For many small businesses, however, the headaches of implementing and maintaining a mandatory program likely outweigh the benefits,” he said. “I would expect guidelines to be similar to those dealing with seasonal flu vaccinations, that is, guidelines that encourage employees to get vaccinated and provide education and resources, but do not make anything mandatory.”

QUESTION: Are you taking a vaccine when it is available? 58% of Americans say they would take a COVID vaccine. But is that enough to achieve herd immunity? @ wusa9 https://t.co/X3xjy0ouBp

– Marcella Robertson (@Marcella_Rob) December 5, 2020

Rasmus stated that ultimately we will have to wait and see if anything changes before vaccines become widely available.

“The health and safety authority has already commented on the advantages of vaccination. It is possible that workplace safety concerns may lead to new vaccination laws or regulations, or employers may be more concerned about claims made by workers working with unvaccinated colleagues than claims made against discrimination by those working against the Pronounce vaccine. “

Comments are closed.