Can Your Employer Require You to Get The COVID-19 vaccine?


Vaccines can be a hot topic for debate.  The rise of the anti-vax movement has led many of us to question the safety of vaccines.  There have been multiple studies done that prove that vaccine reaction is few and far between and that they do more harm than good, yet there is still a lot of worries.  In the midst of this growing topic of debate, we have the pandemic and a vaccine that should be able to help us, if enough of the population gets it.  Many are concerned about this vaccine though.  Has it been tested enough?  Is it safe?  These questions may linger in the minds of many, along with “what if I don’t get it?”  If you choose not to get there is one thing that might be seriously affected.

Can your employer require you to get (any) vaccine?

The short answer is yes.  Part of the employer’s job is to provide a healthy and safe environment for the employees, and they are given a lot of room to determine what some of the standards are.  If there is a disease that harms the employees, then an employer is allowed to decide what preventative measures there are, and that includes making certain vaccines mandatory for everyone. 

Is the COVID 19 vaccine an exception?

            Many people have raised this question and they have some good points for it.  After all, neither vaccine candidate has been fully approved by the FDA.  They have only been authorized for emergency use.  This is referred to as temporary permission for the vaccine to be put on the market and it is only due to the state of the country that this was granted. 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has spoken out on this.  According to recently issued guidelines, employers do have a right to enforce a mandatory vaccination policy.  The exceptions that apply to other mandatory vaccination policies do apply and we will go into detail about them next.

Religious and personal belief exemptions

Personal belief exemptions are not considered viable for vaccination refusal.  This means that if you do not want to get the vaccine for a person, non-religious reasons (such as political or safety) then your employer can still require you to get it and can choose to let you go if you refuse.

Religious beliefs are not considered a part of the personal belief umbrella.  If getting a vaccine is truly against one’s religion, then an employer must provide “reasonable accommodation.”

Disability exemptions

If you have a disability that stops you from getting the vaccine, your rights are in the same category as religious exemptions.  An employer must provide reasonable accommodation for you.

What is a reasonable accommodation? 

Reasonable accommodation states that an employer may still follow the guidelines they set for the workplace, and it is likely that those who cannot get the vaccine will not be returning to the office.  Instead, a “reasonable accommodation” might look like working from home. 

The employer does not have to provide this accommodation if it would result in “undue hardship”.  If this is the case, the employer does not immediately have the right to fire you.  There are many laws that protect you.  They will vary from state to state.