Americans and the rest of the world are hoping that in 2021 every-day life will begin normalizing. With the rolling-out of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, many feel they can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
However, even though the vaccine has reinstated hope in many, it still raises additional questions. Many have wondered whether employers can make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for their employees. The answer appears to be yes.
A guidance issued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission indicated that employers can require employee vaccination to go to work. However, this does not necessarily mean that an employee would be automatically terminated. For example, the employee may be entitled to work remotely. Employers also may have to make exceptions for employees with religious objections and disabilities.
Employers should proceed with caution
Although employers can mandate a COVID-19 vaccination, the questions remains whether they will or whether they should. It will likely be challenging for employers to ensure their employees comply with the mandate. Employers requiring the vaccine may also receive some push-back.
For example, there has been wide-spread resistance to health protocols such as social distancing and mask mandates. It is not unreasonable to assume that a vaccine mandate would not be received any better, especially considering the skepticism much of the public has regarding the vaccines. For example, a CNN poll of 2,000 New York City Firefighters found that almost 55% said they would not receive the vaccine.
According to the New York Times, 60% of nursing home workers in Ohio refused to get the vaccine. A December Gallup Panel survey also indicated that only 63% of Americans said they would receive the vaccine when available. Accordingly, employers could expect pushback from employees who are skeptical of the vaccine. And pushback often leads to lawsuits.
Ultimately, employers are legally entitled to require their employees receive a vaccine. However, many employers will likely face backlash that could still lead to the expenses of litigation. As such, it is likely most employers will strongly encourage vaccination while stopping short of actually mandating it.