Home News Businesses Wonder if They Should Get Their Workforce Vaccinated

Businesses Wonder if They Should Get Their Workforce Vaccinated

Businesses Wonder if They Should Get Their Workforce Vaccinated

It may be the better part of a year before a Covid-19 vaccine is available to the general U.S. public, but businesses are already wondering whether they can or should require their workforce to be vaccinated, say, employment lawyers.

Few companies outside the health-care industry require their staff to be vaccinated against the flu or other communicable diseases as a condition of employment.

But the threat posed by the highly contagious and deadly coronavirus is likely to persuade more companies to consider mandatory vaccine policies, particularly in hospitality and other industries that interact closely with the public.

All states have vaccine requirements for children attending schools or daycare, with varying exceptions. And many states have laws requiring influenza immunization for hospital workers and other health-care personnel.

Legally, there is little preventing private employers from imposing vaccinations on their own, legal experts say. The only significant legal limitations are federal and state laws prohibiting discrimination in the workplace.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 could require employers to accommodate employees who object to vaccination because it would conflict with their sincerely held religious beliefs.

If employees have a medical condition that makes it unsafe for them to get a vaccine, they could also try to get an exemption under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. Under that law, employers must reasonably accommodate disabled employees unless doing so would be prohibitively difficult or expensive.

A vaccine requirement may be lawful but impractical, especially for larger companies.

“It’s going to be a tough call for a lot of employers,” says Carrie Hoffman, a Dallas-based employment lawyer at Foley & Lardner LLP.

She says it could be time-consuming and costly for a company’s human resources to sort out individual opt-out requests. A company that mandates vaccines could also face a gross negligence suit or have to pay out a workers’ compensation claim if an inoculated employee has a severe reaction.

On the flip side, Ms. Hoffman says, it is unlikely that a company would be held legally responsible for not requiring vaccinations if no law were violated. “I don’t see how an employer would be liable for not mandating a vaccine,” she said.

She says because of those complications, companies have more incentive to encourage, facilitate, and subsidize vaccinations to help curb the spread of disease.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, has previously issued guidance on mandatory flu shots that emphasized that employees may be entitled to exemptions.

The agency has said employers covered by the ADA should consider urging workers to get the flu vaccine rather than requiring them to receive it.

Terminating an employee who refuses to be vaccinated should be a last resort, says James M. Paul, a lawyer at Ogletree Deakins who represents employers. He says less drastic measures should be considered first, like granting a leave of absence, requiring more protective gear, relocating the employee, or allowing the person to work from home.

Eskalera, a Startup Led by Goldman Sachs’ Former HR Head Has Launched a Diversity and Inclusion Index

Eskalera, a technology startup led by Goldman Sachs former human resources head Dane Holmes, has launched an index to measure corporate diversity and inclusiveness,...

HSBC to Remove 35,000 Jobs Amidst Covid-19 Crises

HSBC Holdings Plc has restarted cutting as many as 35,000 jobs, three months after the coronavirus outbreak forced it to pause a long-awaited overhaul...

Genpact Offers Its Internal Skill Training Program Globally for Everyone

Genpact has announced Adapt and Rise, a role-based online learning platform that leverages Genpact's expertise honed from delivering real-world change for hundreds of clients....

San-Francisco Based Learning Platform Degreed Has Raised $32 Million in New Funding

The upskilling platform, Degreed, has announced $32 million in new funding in direct response to overwhelming demand for better skill insights, talent mobility, and...

Research Shows the Implications of Workplace Layouts on Employee Productivity and Overall Performance

As some workplaces prepare for the gradual return of employees and overhaul office layouts and seating plans, research has shown this could also have...

Employee Concierge ‘Back Technologies’ Integrates Automation Into Internal HR and Other Support Tasks

Companies are under increasing pressure to automate workflows and digitally service their employees, particularly in light of trends toward remote work. It takes an...

HR Strategies to Help Your Business Navigate the New ‘Normal’

No business is immune to the massive changes resulting from the health crisis. Organizations have proven themselves to be agile, and employees have demonstrated...

The Importance Of Diversity And Inclusion In HR, Hiring, Talent Management: Thoughts From A Top Expert

Michael C. Hyter is one of today’s best-known experts on inclusion and diversity and the author of The Power of Choice: Embracing Efficacy to Drive Your Career and The...

HR Expert Highlights Actionable Steps to ‘Make Real Change’ Against Racism in Your Workplace

Kyra Leigh Sutton, Ph.D., is a faculty member at the Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations, where she teaches human resources courses...

Adidas Employees Want Company to Investigate HR Chief for Response to Racial Issues

A group of Adidas employees from around the globe is asking the company to investigate its chief human resources officer, as part of a...