KHA’s business/employer clients have asked whether they can require employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19. Employers have an obligation to ensure that their employees have a healthy and safe work environment. Failing to do so could lead to an employee complaint or lawsuit against the company.
Can an employer require employees to be vaccinated?
The Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) recently issued guidance that employers may encourage or even require COVID-19 vaccinations. However, if an employer institutes a mandatory vaccine policy, they must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), and other workplace laws. This means that employees may be exempt from receiving the vaccine if they have a covered disability under the ADA that prevents them from taking the vaccine. If proper medical documentation is provided, employees with underlying medical conditions, such as severe allergic reactions to vaccines, may be exempt. Employees may also be exempt from the vaccine requirement under Title VII, which covers religious and other exemptions. But the employer must have the correct number of employees for those laws to apply.
Can an employee be fired for not wanting to work with unvaccinated coworkers and/or for not getting vaccinated?
Generally, when an employee refuses to fulfill the requirements of the position and/or fails to be present at work, it is grounds for termination. That of course will also depend on whether the employee has an employment agreement.
Every case is different. For questions related to requiring vaccinations of your employees, call Kelli Haas at (615) 567-7304 or email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take care and stay well.