While our hopes to eliminate the gruesome pandemic flourishes with the recent developments in the authorization of COVID-19 vaccine, the business world is highly intrigued by the question whether it was possible to implement a mandatory vaccination policy.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance on December 16, 2020, and contrary to free-will based perceptions, substantially cleared the way for mandated vaccination for employees when returning onsite. Referring to the relevant section of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which enables employers to require an employee not pose a direct threat to health or safety of others in the workplace, the guidance allows employers to oblige employees to get vaccinated before they become physically present at the workplace. In other words, unless a reasonable accommodation cannot be used to reduce or eliminate the risks to the health or safety of other individuals, unvaccinated employees can be kept out of the workplace.
One important caveat here is that the above authorization cannot be interpreted as an automatic reasonable cause to fire employees who do not get vaccinated. That said, employees with unfeigned religious beliefs against the application of the vaccination measure or those with disabilities should be subjected to the consideration for reasonable accommodation by the employer. Namely, in most situations, homeworking would be the most feasible accommodation if the job tasks are eligible to be fulfilled remotely. Of course, factors such as the structure of business operations, or organizational culture would also tip the balance in such a determination.
Further advice and instructions from EEOC are expected throughout the implementation process at federal, state and local levels. We will be keeping you posted about new developments.