Federal guidance enables employers to mandate workers get COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine
New guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lays out how employers can mandate employees to get the new COVID-19 vaccine. Frontline healthcare workers are already required to get several types of vaccinations. (Image: Getty/E+/Geber86)(Getty / E+ / Geber86)

New guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission allows employers to require workers to get COVID-19 vaccinations, which has major implications for providers.

The guidance released earlier this week outlines the applicability of equal opportunity laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII. It details how employers should handle COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

The guidance comes less than a week after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization to a COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and could grant similar authority to another vaccine Friday from Moderna.

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The guidance would have an impact on healthcare providers as facilities often require workers to get other types of vaccinations such as a flu shot or measles.

States are primarily vaccinating frontline healthcare workers first after receiving guidance from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) panel.

RELATED: Hospitals in New York, Michigan and Massachusetts among first to receive COVID-19 vaccines

The guidance applies to all employers and details what procedures a company can take if a person has a health reason why they can’t get the vaccine or has closely held religious objections.

If a worker can’t get the vaccine due to a disability, then employers should conduct an individual assessment on whether the worker poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others in the workplace.

“A conclusion that there is a direct threat would include a determination that an unvaccinated individual will expose others to the virus at the worksite,” the guidance said.

An employee is entitled to accommodations such as working remotely.

If the employer cannot reduce the threat, then they can exclude the employee from entering the workplace but cannot terminate them.

The employer also must give accommodations to employees that don’t want to take the vaccine due to religious practices or beliefs.