Employers need to take several factors into consideration when evaluating whether to require workers to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine.
So says Debora Verdier, a senior member of The Cavanagh Law Firm, which a core group of 30 attorneys founded in 1999. Verdier said employers “have a duty to ensure that the health and safety of their employees is a top priority.” However, she added while employers can encourage or require employees to obtain vaccines, they have to follow the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other workplace laws.
Employers should consider several exceptions and circumstances when developing a policy. Verdier said under the Americans with Disabilities Act employees may choose not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine for legitimate medical reasons. These reasons include a worker who has a severe allergy to the vaccine or to an ingredient in the vaccine, as well as immune system disorders. In those cases, the employer would have to offer a “reasonable accommodation,” which could include allowing the employee to work remotely or establishing strict safety protocols, Verdier said.
She said if employers require their staff members to obtain COVID-19 vaccines they will have to be ready to address and respond to objections based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Personal beliefs including ethical objections to the vaccine or veganism are generally not going to be considered sufficient reasons to refuse a vaccine. Verdier said employers also should take into account human rights/bodily integrity against the right of other workers and public safety.