Covid-19 Vaccination Questions for Employers
As everyone over the age of twelve is now eligible for vaccines, more questions arise for employers. MJ has developed a resource full of frequently asked questions about the Covid vaccines. In addition, be sure to check out the Fisher Phillips vaccine resource center for employers, including their sample vaccination mandate template.
The EEOC COVID-19 website will provide some initial questions and answers to those areas of risk for your organization as an employer. As a private business, from a legal perspective, there is little preventing you from imposing a vaccination requirement on your employees. You will need to balance that against operational risks associated with a mandatory program. Generally, an employer can implement a mandatory vaccination program. This ability by the employer, however, is subject to reasonable accommodation obligations under federal, state, and local laws for those with disabilities who request a medical accommodation or those who have a religious belief against vaccinations. You do have greater latitude to consider when managing this exposure, but there still remains some regulatory and legislative boundaries that you need to review whether it be EEOC and/or OSHA on this subject. The two notable exceptions to this mandate are when an employee can attest to having a medical condition that could cause a real danger of serious illness or death in the event of inoculation and when the employee maintains privately held religious beliefs that are inconsistent with taking vaccines.
Setting aside the question of legality, each business will carefully need to consider all aspects of this matter and calculate all of the inherent risks. Now that vaccines are widely available for everyone over the age of twelve and with the full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine, it makes it easier for employers to require vaccination. That being said, each employer must do what it believes is best for its operation. As a sorority headquarters and also sorority chapter house operations, you need to consider not only the health and safety of the employees operating on your property, but also the resident collegiate members. Both the EEOC and the Center for Disease Control have acknowledged the inherent risk of having a COVID-19 infected person in the workplace posing a significant risk of substantial harm to others.
Employers should begin to evaluate their specific workplace situation and determine what is the correct course of action for them by considering the following:
- Employers should ask if a mandatory vaccination program is necessary to their industry, workforce or workplace facilities such as chapter houses?
- If the employer deems a mandatory vaccination program necessary, is it organization-wide or are there restrictions based on being a remote worker, exposure to chapter members across the country, etc.?
- If a mandatory program is implemented, employers should evaluate their accommodation (exception) processes to be able to quickly react to all requests that may arise by employees.
Whatever the case may be, it is recommended that, as an employer, you provide proper education relating to Covid-19 protocol, vaccinations, in general, and the rights of employees to refuse a vaccine. All the while, continuing to practice safe exposure control to prevent the spread of the virus, remove barriers which might pressure reporting to work when sick and make it easy for employees to receive inoculations to fend off COVID-19, even if not mandated.
Employees should have one individual or department who is responsible and accountable for compliance around a mandatory vaccine program and its processes. This is especially critical if the employment at the chapter houses is managed locally. This is a complex issue to effectively navigate and the local management may not be as familiar with all of the inherent risks of this matter.
Given the fast-evolving nature of the question, it is crucial for employers to monitor new laws and guidance from federal and state authorities. Employers should weigh the legal exposure and other risks associated with any mandatory vaccination program, and assess whether the alternative of voluntary vaccination may be a better option based on the nature and needs of your business.