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Ask HR: “Can I require my employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine?”

employee covid vaccine

In the world of human resources, nothing is off-limits. Despite it being pigeonholed as the complaint department, HR is chock-full of tricky and questionable work situations that, if handled poorly, can create potentially costly liabilities for a company.

That’s where simplicityHR’s Ask HR series comes in! From serious to seriously strange, we’re here to simplify all your burning HR questions.

To get an expert answer on COVID-19 vaccines and the workplace, we reached out to Michele Kauinui, Director of HR Services at simplicityHR by ALTRES.


Ask HR: “Can I require my employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine?” 


Headshot of Michele Kauinui, simplicityHR Director of HR ServicesMichele: As COVID-19 vaccines become available, many employers have reached out asking if they can require employees to get vaccinated.

On December 16, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released new guidance (see Section K) that answered these types of workplace vaccination questions.

In summary, employers may encourage, and possibly require, COVID-19 vaccinations as long as policies comply with workplace laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to the EEOC. The vaccination itself is not a medical examination, but pre-vaccination medical screening questions are subject to the ADA standards for disability-related inquiries.

In the case of an employee who is unable to receive a COVID-19 vaccination because of disability or sincerely held religious belief, they may need to be exempted from the mandate or provided with reasonable accommodation.

If an objecting employee is covered by a collective bargaining agreement, the employer may need to reach an agreement with the union before mandating vaccines.

It is important that employers fully understand EEO and other federal and state laws before taking any adverse action.

To learn more about this issue, contact simplicityHR.

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This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should first consult their attorney, accountant or adviser before acting upon any information in this article.

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