Mandatory Vaccinations?

As the availability of a Covid-19 vaccine becomes increasingly likely in the coming months, employers have begun asking whether they can require workers to get the vaccine.

The simple answer is yes, but as you must know by now, nothing is actually simple when it comes to the highly contagious, potentially lethal virus.

“An employer can make a vaccination a requirement … but there are significant exceptions for potential concerns related to any disability you may have and for religious beliefs that prohibit vaccinations,” the AARP reported on its website Sept. 30. “And experts say that employers are more likely to simply encourage their workers to get immunized rather than issue a company-wide mandate.”

Dorit Reiss, a law professor at the University of California, Hastings, told AARP that if employees have medical reasons or religious beliefs that prevent them from getting the Covid-19 vaccine, employers could be legally bound to give those workers a reasonable alternative that would allow them to continue working.

Alternatives may include wearing a mask, working from home or working separately from other people, as long as it’s not too significant a barrier for the employer, Reiss said. “If you can achieve the same level of safety as the vaccine via mask or remote working, you can’t fire the employee. You need to give them an accommodation.”

Another consideration for employers is the sticky liability issues a vaccination requirement might raise. The potential liability is likely enough to keep employers from requiring workers to get the vaccine, legal experts told AARP.

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