As vaccinations against COVID start to proliferate and talk of an “end to the pandemic” seem more and more real, there’s a question that’s on everyone’s mind, says San Francisco workplace discrimination attorney Jeremy Pasternak: can employers require you to get your vaccine shot before returning to work for the company?
Just because you are eligible for a shot doesn’t mean you have to take it, does it? It’s something a lot of employees are thinking about, and we’ve pulled together some information to help answer that question here. This is what you’ll need to know.
What the CDC Says
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the COVID-19 vaccination is available for everyone in the United States aged 12 years or older. While there is no federal mandate requiring you to get a vaccine, the CDC notes that “for some healthcare workers or essential employees, a state or local government or employer, for example, may require or mandate that workers be vaccinated as a matter of state or other law.”
Additionally, individual employers can mandate that their employees receive COVID-19 vaccinations before returning to the workplace, so long as they follow the rules:
“If an employer requires employees to provide proof that they have received a COVID-19 vaccination from a pharmacy or their own healthcare provider, the employer cannot mandate that the employee provide any medical information as part of the proof.”
There are some exemptions. The CDC says that some individuals may be exempt for medical reasons, such as having demonstrably adverse reactions to the vaccine due to some allergy or medical condition. Individuals may also be exempt for religious reasons, and employers must provide reasonable accommodation as long as it does not cause undue hardship.
When it comes to reopening workplaces, the CDC advises employers strongly encouraging their employees to receive vaccinations before returning to the workplace permanently. Still, the CDC says that even with vaccinations, employers and employees alike should be taking extra care when it comes to returning to traditional job sites.
In fact, it might be necessary to take additional precautionary measures to prevent the spread of disease. Masks, distancing, and limiting the number of people indoors might still be required practices, especially if you’re in an office setting with poor ventilation.
In the end, it will be up to employers and employees to manage risks when returning to the workplace, and taking plenty of precautions to ensure that they limit the spread of disease.