The COVID-19 pandemic impacted businesses in more ways than one. There have been reports of job losses at small businesses, and many of them have limited cash on hand. Because of recent increases in infections caused by the delta variant, many employers are now confronted with pressing questions about worker vaccination requirements. As if staying afloat weren’t difficult enough, Employers will be guided through the ever-changing landscape of return-to-work and prepare proper documentation to clarify and implement their workplace policies as we examine vaccination policies, vaccine exemptions, and vaccine verifications.
- Is it legal for an employer to require vaccination before an employee is allowed to work on-site and in person?
The answer is Yes.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released guidance stating that implementing mandatory COVID vaccination policies is permissible as long as you don’t violate federal discrimination rules relating to disability and religion.
As a result of the foregoing, you must legally provide reasonable accommodation to an employee who is unable to receive the vaccination due to a religious belief or a disability. When thinking about accommodations for people with disabilities, keep in mind that federal law also protects the rights of pregnant employees. When it comes to employees with disabilities, you have the option to exclude them from the workplace if reasonable accommodations cannot be made.
In the United States, is it legal to fire an employee for refusing to get vaccinated?
You may want to consult with an attorney before firing someone who refuses to get their vaccinations because they have the proper paperwork in place. It may or may not be a violation of anti-discrimination laws depending on the circumstances. However, employers may be justified in taking action if there is a clear and present danger to the health and safety of other employees. In general, requesting vaccination proof is legal. However, employers must respect the privacy of their employees and refrain from collecting any other non-essential medical information about them.
- How to check and detect COVID-19 symptoms in employees?
Employees entering the workplace can be screened for COVID-19 symptoms by their employers. Employers, for instance, can:
1. Cough, fever, or shortness of breath are all symptoms that may indicate a COVID infection.
2. Find out if employees have come into contact with anyone who has the symptoms of COVID.
3. Be sure to check the body temperatures of new hires before allowing them into the workplace.
- Is it legal for employers to make COVID-19 testing a condition of employment?
Yes, there are detailed guidelines from the CDC and EEOC on how companies can monitor and test employees for symptoms. Because these tests only tell if a person has COVID-19, employers cannot require antibody testing in order to be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and federal law. Workers should be tested for current infection using the viral test if an employer intends to do so.
The CDC warns employers against requiring sick workers to show proof of their illness, such as a COVID-19 test result or a doctor’s note, in order to get paid time off or return to work. Even so, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says that employers can require testing if they do so in accordance with federal law. If an employer intends to require testing, they should speak with an attorney.
- Can an employer insist on a negative COVID-19 test before allowing a positive employee back on the job?
According to the CDC, employers should not require a negative result on the COVID-19 test before allowing workers to return to their jobs. CDC. Though as explained by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers can still require testing on-site or via a third party to prevent an outbreak in the workplace. Employers may want to consult with an attorney about their legal options in light of the fact that local, state, and federal legislation is constantly changing in response to the pandemic’s impact.
- What happens if a worker refuses to come to work because they are worried about getting sick?
Fear, anxiety, and uncertainty have pervaded the last year without a doubt. You may have employees who refuse to come to work because they are afraid of getting infected because of the emergence of COVID’s delta variant and reported cases of breakthrough infection.
Because of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, workers who refuse to return because they believe they are “imminently harmed” by the virus are not fired. To be eligible for this protection, the employee must have a genuine fear of contracting the COVID virus and be able to demonstrate this fear to Human Resources. There is no compensation for an employee who refuses to return to work despite there being no imminent danger.
Some of your employees may fall into this category, but there may be others who are concerned about COVID in general. Consider talking to your employees about the safety measures you’ve put in place to show that you’re serious about creating a safe workplace. Employers must keep employees informed at all times. By doing this, many of the worries and anxieties your employees may have about getting sick or spreading an infection will be alleviated.
- What should a vaccination policy at work contain?
Whether you decide to mandate vaccinations or not, you should have a written workplace Vaccination Policy as part of your employee communication. It’s important to keep in mind all applicable federal and state laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as any local requirements, such as mandatory masking, when drafting your company’s policies and procedures. When drafting your return-to-work policies, keep in mind industry and community standards, as well as the demographics of your workforce.
Explain vaccination requirements, exemptions, and reasonable accommodations like social distancing or working remotely, or taking paid leave, in a straightforward and straightforward manner using clear and direct language. Include the ramifications of not adhering to the policies, such as being terminated. Consider consulting an attorney before terminating an employee for not abiding by these rules to ensure that you aren’t infringing on any federal, state, or local laws protecting employees.
If an employee has questions or concerns, make sure your policies direct them to the appropriate person within your company, such as human resources or the employee’s immediate manager. To build trust with your employees and ensure a safe and productive workplace, you must allow open communication channels.
The fact is that in order to be a good employer, you’ll have to stay on top of changing guidance, both locally and from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. This includes new information on fully-vaccinated employees.
- When it comes to vaccine exemptions, how should employers evaluate them?
Employees with disabilities or religious beliefs may not be able to receive the vaccination because of your business’s compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII. If this is true, you must comply with the ADA’s and Title VII’s legal requirements and guidance. Following are some steps you may need to take when evaluating these exemptions:
Employees who claim religious or disability-related objections should notify their supervisors in writing so that you can verify whether the employee is exempt from the policy.
The next step is to see if there is a reasonable accommodation that can be made for this worker. • Modifying shift schedules and working remotely are examples of reasonable accommodations. Masking and social distancing are also options. Consider reviewing the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) or CDC guidelines when discussing accommodations with your employees. This will help you come up with a workable solution for your employee.
Include these steps in your written policies and procedures for returning to work and receiving the COVID vaccination. This is the best way to ensure compliance.
- Is it legal for an employer to ask for proof of vaccination in light of COVID-19 safety worries?
A recent EEOC guidance allows employers to inquire about vaccination status and even require Proof of Vaccination through self-attestation or a COVID-19 vaccination record card (or passport). Because asking for proof of vaccination does not necessarily elicit information about a disability, employers who are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may do so.
You should, however, be cautious when asking follow-up questions, such as why a worker refused to receive the vaccine. Despite the fact that there are a variety of reasons why employees have chosen not to receive vaccinations, questions like these can delve into matters of religion or health, triggering provisions of the ADA.
Despite the EEOC’s recommendations, this is a contentious subject. The privacy concerns of many employers (as well as employees) are causing some to question their moral obligation to provide a safe working environment. Employer verifications will be a topic of discussion for some time to come as laws, rules, and guidelines change.
To keep your employees and your company safe from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s critical that your employment and HR documents, such as policies, exemptions, and verifications, are kept up to date. As a result of the pandemic, employment law is constantly evolving, so it’s important to familiarise yourself with your options and seek legal counsel.