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Can Employers Require Employees to Get a COVID Vaccine?

The answer is yes…sometimes. Here are a few things employers should know about requiring a vaccine. Before taking any employment related action you should review the particulars of your case with an employment attorney.

  • Whether you can require a vaccine or not is governed by state and local laws. This article guides you through the Federal guidelines.
  • Yes, you can require a vaccine for all employees. However, if an employee tells you they are not getting the vaccine, you should not ask them why not. This may require them to disclose a protected medical condition.
  • If an employee is unable to get a vaccine due to a disability, the employer may exclude the employee from the workplace if the unvaccinated employee presents a “direct threat” to other workers and the employer is unable to provide a reasonable accommodation to reduce or eliminate the risk to other employees. For example, if employees must work in close proximity to each other and the employee with the disability cannot be moved to a different work area, physical barriers made, or moved to a different job, then the employer may exclude them from the workplace.
  • If employee objects to the vaccine because of a sincerely held religious belief or practice, the employer must provide a reasonable accommodation unless it would pose an undue hardship. Moral, ethical, or personal objections are not sufficient.
  • Employers can terminate an employee who refuses to be vaccinated (except as noted above). This does not necessarily mean the employer can or should terminate them. There is nothing in the ADA that precludes termination, but employers should take every step possible to avoid termination.
  • If an employer mandates a vaccine, then employee time used to get the vaccine is compensable time meaning employers should pay employees for the time needed to get the vaccine. Associated costs should also be reimbursed such as transportation costs, parking, etc.

For additional information on this topic, see the following CDC page for employers: