COVID-19 Legal Update: Initial Thoughts on Mandatory Vaccination Programs



Many employers are starting to seriously think about what sort of vaccination program, if any, they should have. Perhaps the most fundamental question is, can an employer mandate that all of its employees get vaccinated? The answer likely is yes, but there are several issues and exceptions to be considered.

The answer might change depending on guidance that is expected to be issued by federal and state government agencies. In particular, it is anticipated that the new federal administration will take a more active role in overseeing the national response to the pandemic than the prior administration.

In addition, even if an employer can mandate that employees get vaccinated, some employees might need to be exempted from that requirement due to the employer’s obligation to reasonably accommodate the disabilities and/or religious beliefs of its employees.

Moreover, employers that have the flexibility to allow most or all of their workforce to work from home might opt to take a wait-and-see approach before committing to a mandatory vaccination plan.

Note that some states have eliminated certain exemptions from mandatory vaccinations in recent years due to measles outbreaks. If an employee seeks an exemption based on personal or religious reasons, a nonprofit should reach out to its local and state departments of health for guidance on the current status of state exemptions with respect to the vaccination in question. If a state does not have a religious exemption, employers still need to evaluate whether an employee is entitled to a religious accommodation under federal law, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which applies to employers with fifteen or more employees.

Several of our partner law firms have written articles that delve into the issues nonprofits need to consider:

Here are links to several websites regarding vaccinations. Nonprofits should check these frequently, because developments with respect to COVID-19 and vaccinations are changing rapidly.

Connecticut

New Jersey

New York

National

QUESTIONS?

If you have questions, please contact your local Pro Bono Partnership office.