Can Employers Require COVID-19 Vaccines?
On December 16, 2020, the EEOC published guidance for employers concerning mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirements. The EEOC stated than an employer does not violate the ADA disability-related inquiry prohibition when the employer requires the employee to show proof of receipt of a COVID-19 vaccination. However, the EEOC warned employers to not ask the employee why they have not received the vaccination unless asking the question is “job-related and consistent with business necessity.” The employer should also warn the employee not to provide any medical information as part of their proof of vaccination so as to avoid unintentionally implicating the ADA.
The EEOC also provided steps the employer must take if the employee is unable to receive a COVID-19 vaccination because of a disability or a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance. The employer can set out a job qualification that the employee shall not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of individuals in the workplace and that the standard requires appropriate vaccination. However, if this standard tends to screen out an individual with a disability, the employer must show that an unvaccinated employee would pose a direct threat due to a “significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual or others that cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.” Careful individualized assessments would be required at that point. Our Teague Campbell Employment Law team is available to assist employers and their management teams in developing and applying these assessments in order to maintain ADA compliance. Feel free to reach out to a team member today.