The COVID-19 vaccine is controversial for some people. Many people want to opt out of receiving the vaccine for personal reasons. Meanwhile, the CDC has made it clear that as many people as possible must be vaccinated to end the spread of the virus.
President Biden is clearly on the side of vaccinations with his announcement on July 29th that federal employees will need to be vaccinated or submit to frequent COVID-19 testing. This leaves many workers, governmental and private alike, wondering something important: is it even legal for an employer to force its employees to get vaccinated?
Well, it depends. Here’s what you need to know about employees’ rights regarding vaccination and whether your employer can require you to get vaccinated.
Can Employers Force Staff to Get Vaccinated?
Simply put, yes. Both public and private employers can require staff to get vaccinated as long as they can safely do so without violating their sincerely held religious beliefs. On December 16th of 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) confirmed that requiring staff to receive a COVID-19 vaccination does not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The Act bans employers from requiring certain medical exams, but it doesn’t bar vaccinations. According to the EEOC’s statement, “If a vaccine is administered to an employee by an employer for protection against contracting COVID-19, the employer is not seeking information about an individual’s impairments or current health status and, therefore, it is not a medical examination.” As long as the requirement also makes exceptions for people who cannot get vaccinated for health or religious reasons, it’s both legal and enforceable.
Private and government employers are equally able to require vaccinations for employment. In fact, there’s precedent for both. While the US worked on eradicating polio, employers of all types instituted vaccination mandates. Today, members of the military are still required to receive a wide range of vaccines upon enlistment, and medical professionals are frequently required to get vaccinations as a condition of employment.
Biden’s announcement regarding federal employee vaccinations is not a true mandate, however. Since it offers an alternative route to vaccination through frequent testing, employees can choose their actions. A true mandate would require employees to specifically seek exemptions and accommodations for health or religious reasons.
The Exceptions to Vaccine Mandates
If an employer does require vaccinations, they cannot fire you if you cannot be vaccinated for health or religious reasons. That counts as discrimination due to disability or faith, both of which are illegal. Your employer must offer one of two alternatives.
- An alternative way to meet the requirement that does not put undue stress on you, such as providing test results or wearing a mask
- A complete exemption from the mandate
Your employer may choose the solution they offer. However, if they provide you with accommodations that you believe are unreasonable, you can request further changes or take legal action.
Protect Your Health and Your Job
The government and private employers alike have the right to require vaccinations from healthy employees without religious objections. However, if you need a religious or health exemption from a mandate, they must honor that. If you’ve been unjustly fired from your job because you cannot be vaccinated, you deserve help. Reach out to a qualified workplace rights attorney today to take action and fight back against this discrimination.