During this pandemic, the workplace has changed tremendously. With mask requirements and working from home, all industries have had to learn to adapt and pivot. Some employers are even requiring COVID-19 testing on employees periodically. With a vaccine becoming available soon for the novel Coronavirus many are considering whether they will want to get the vaccine. But will the vaccine be an employer requirement?
Whether employer or employee, knowing your rights related to the pandemic are key to protecting those around you from illness and liability. Additional requirements in the workplace have already been established, including masks and temperature checks. In certain situations, and industries COVID-19 testing for employees has become an additional requirement prior to entering or returning to work. This includes the precaution for periodic testing and upon entrance testing, to prevent viral transmission between individuals within the workplace. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) COVID-19 testing by employers is seen as a business necessity and follows the standards of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).
With safety and potential liability of great concern, having a vaccine on the horizon has made businesses consider whether they should be concerned with requiring or have the ability to compel their employees to receive the vaccine. Likewise, individuals are also weighing on whether they will get the vaccine. As with many other vaccines, some individuals may be entitled to an exemption from a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine based on an ADA disability. As with the pandemic, there are many unanswered questions about this vaccine. Depending on the industry, vaccination mandates by employers come with inherent risk of potential litigation and liability to employees. However, an employer may want to encourage or incentivize vaccination in order to maintain a healthy work force, increase productivity, and/or have an impact on public health. Encouraging employees to receive the vaccine or incentivizing employee vaccination may carry with it less risk of liability for an employer but may or may not have the desired effect on the work force.
Employers and employees should begin planning now for the new vaccines and plan to keep themselves and their employees safe. While this pandemic continues to develop, and more information is made available through public policy announcements we will continue to update these materials and information. In times like these an experienced attorney can help take action to protect employees, businesses, and their customers. Strause Law Group can advise the reader on these issues.