Story at a glance
- While the federal government has thus far refused to mandate vaccinations during the coronavirus pandemic, some companies are beginning to require it.
- The federal government has put out guidance that employers are within their rights to require vaccinations.
- A legal challenge against a Texas hospital’s policy was tossed out by the judge last month.
With little exception, the latest federal guidance is clear: Employers are within their legal rights to mandate employees receive coronavirus vaccinations.
“Those who have a disability or a sincerely held religious belief may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation under civil rights laws, so long as providing that accommodation does not constitute an undue hardship for the employer,” Sharon Perley Masling, an employment lawyer who leads the COVID-19 task force at Morgan Lewis, told the New York Post.
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In May, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Commission issued an update clarifying that federal laws did not prevent employers from requiring employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19 as long as they provided accommodations mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other EEO considerations. Earlier this month, the justice department clarified in a legal opinion that the status of the vaccine, which was approved under an emergency use authorization, does not prohibit entities from requiring the vaccine.
The Biden administration has refused a national vaccine mandate but is currently considering one for federal employees, who are now returning to the office. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) said it will mandate 115,000 front-line health care workers to get vaccinated, and other agencies could soon follow in their shoes. California and New York City are rolling out “soft mandates” that require employees who are not vaccinated to be tested weekly for COVID-19.
“Every employer that decides to mandate vaccination paves the way for other employers to feel safer doing so,” Masling told the New York Post.
Companies seemed to be hesitant to impose mandates, but after a legal challenge against a Texas hospital’s policy was tossed out in June, more employers may follow suit. Still others are waiting for the vaccine to receive full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“You get the FDA to say it’s final, it’s approved, and I can guarantee you all the places I’m involved in, if you don’t get vaccinated you will get fired,” billionaire Ken Langone told CNBC. “You have an obligation to your fellow man to protect him as well as yourself.”
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