How Your Employer Could Require You To Get The COVID-19 Vaccine

COVID-19 has already changed day-to-day life and how we communicate within the workforce. And as this ever-evolving pandemic faces the prospect of being controlled with 3 different vaccines available in the U.S., workforces are faced with yet another questionable new change. Can an employer require you to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

As with most questions revolving around COVID-19, there is no blanket answer for everyone. Though in short, yes, your employer can require you to get a COVID-19 vaccine. "Employment in the United States is generally 'at will,' which means that your employer can set working conditions," says Dorit Reiss, a law professor at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Reiss specializes in legal and policy issues related to vaccines, and told AARP. "Certainly, employers can set health and safety work conditions, with a few limits."

In addition, NBC News states there is no federal law prohibiting employers from requiring employees to get vaccines. Although you may want to check if your state has laws on this subject, as employer-mandated vaccination is a matter of state law and not federal law.

Exemptions can be made

The limits Reiss mentions concern religion and disability. AARP notes that according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, if employees have a certain medical condition or a sincere religious belief standing in the way of not just the COVID-19 vaccine, but all other vaccines as well, then they can be exempt from being required to get a vaccine. 

The ongoing pandemic may have forced the conversation of employer and employee rights regarding vaccines into the current spotlight, but this isn't a new topic. According to NBC News, the healthcare industry has an already-established history of requiring certain vaccines for employees. And of course, the Supreme Court earlier ruled that vaccination can be mandatory for those at public schools.

As stated per AARP, experts hypothesize that employers are more likely to encourage their workers to get immunized rather than issue a company-wide mandate at first. Yes, employers can currently encourage it, though considering there are vaccination mandates already in place in certain industries, it appears very likely the COVID-19 vaccine can legally be a requirement for many. According to Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics at New York University, vaccines will likely become "a ticket to hiring" in the future.