Employers should exercise reason when considering mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for employees
By Thomas Haught
Can an employer require employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine? Ask 10 experts and get 10 different responses. Before push comes to shove, the reasonable approach is for employers to simply encourage vaccination. Allow employees to get vaccinated on work time, without docking pay. Allow an employee a day off if they experience side effects after the vaccine.
Of course, some jobs are such that vaccination could simply be viewed as mandatory. However, if an employer does plan to make the vaccine a mandatory condition of employment, an employer still must consider a reasonable accommodation request based on religious or medical reasons. Employers that deny such accommodation requests may find themselves on the wrong end of a lawsuit.
Also, there a more considerations an employer must weigh. What if an employer requires vaccination and an employee falls ill because of the vaccination? Although rare, some people will have severe reactions to the vaccine.
As of last month, 38 states, including Illinois, had some type of pending legislation that involved employers and making the vaccine mandatory. We will likely see conflicts in state law vs. federal laws, much like the current federal/state conflicts when it comes to the legalization of marijuana.
The bottom line: at this time employers may be best served simply to encourage vaccination. Employers can educate their employees and also go out of their way to reduce hurdles their employees will face in getting vaccinated. That means covering costs, paid time off for the shot and maybe a day off to recover from common vaccine side effects.