Employers can mandate that employees be vaccinated for COVID-19 with certain caveats.
In implementing a mandatory vaccine policy, the employer must:
- Accommodate the sincerely held religious beliefs of any employee pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act; and
- Accommodate the medical condition and/or disability of any employee under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
If an employee informs the employer that he or she holds a sincere religious belief conflicting with getting a vaccine, the employer must make accommodation. However, if in making such an accommodation the employer incurs anything more than a minimal cost, the employer does not have to incur that as an “undue hardship”. Indeed, an employer may require an employee who refuses the vaccine to wear personal protective equipment at all times while working. The employee has the duty to reasonably cooperate with the employer to accommodate the employee’s religious belief.
A COVID-19 vaccine requirement must, if an employee requests accommodation, meet the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act. In such an instance, the employer must offer accommodations to the employee unless the employee cannot perform the essential functions of the job or poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others. Also, again, the employer is not required to incur undue hardship in providing ADA accommodation.
In summary, employers can require COVID-19 vaccines of employees but must accommodate genuine religious and medical needs unless undue hardship would be imposed. Employer-employee cooperation would appear to be key in mandating COVID-19 vaccination.
If you have any questions about this topic, please contact Dana Rose or your Weston Hurd attorney.