COVID-19 Vaccine and Employers: Requirements and Laws

For all of us around the world, recent positive developments regarding the COVID-19 vaccine are fantastic news, signaling our best method yet for fighting this disease. At the same time, employers and HR staffs around the country are asking themselves similar questions, generally focused around one primary query: Can and should we require employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine when they are eligible?

These and many more are the kinds of issues we assist with at WTA, Inc. We cover a variety of human resource services, including employer liability management and several others that might be involved in the topic we’re discussing here. While there’s still a bit of time here, as it’s not expected that the vaccine is available to the general public for at least another few months, many businesses are already looking to prepare here, including looking into vaccination laws for their state and the role these might play. This two-part blog series will go over all the ins and outs of this important question from an HR perspective.

covid-19 vaccine employers laws

COVID and Vaccines

There remains significant debate regarding vaccines, and this is at the heart of many of the issues we’re discussing here. There are a wide number of people who report that they will not get the vaccine immediately upon it being released, whether due to fears of safety or other concerns.

Naturally, this is of particular concern to employers. There could be issues on both sides of the coin: Can employers mandate COVID vaccines, or are they infringing upon personal rights? If they cannot mandate vaccination, are they putting other employees at risk by allowing non-vaccinated people into the workplace? This could turn into a somewhat fraught issue in many cases.

Comparison to Recent Vaccines

For those who have been employers or in the HR world for any significant period of time, this potential issue may look familiar. For many years, there’s been push and pull on whether employers can require the flu vaccine among their employees.

This issue is usually relatively straightforward: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits religious discrimination in the workplace, and this is the top reason many employees resist the flu vaccine. However, this law states that the employer must accommodate religious employees in this way only if doing so requires a minimal cost to the employer – in the case of COVID-19, where non-vaccinated employees may risk the safety of others and may cause significant impacts on the workplace as a whole, the argument can easily be made that this is not a “minimal cost,” and therefore that the law will be different in this case.

In part two, we’ll go over some other laws that may be more prudent for COVID-19 specifically. For more on this or any of our payroll services or other HR solutions, speak to the staff at WTA Inc. today.