The COVID-19 vaccine is now being administered to our country’s front-line healthcare workers and the most vulnerable individuals in our population. In the coming months, the COVID-19 vaccine will be available to the general population with hopes to create herd immunity to the virus that uprooted our lives.
For those who are not planning on receiving the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them, the question that looms is whether an employer can require them to receive the vaccine if they wish to return to in-person work. The short answer is yes unless they fall within an exception.
Before diving into why receiving the COVID-19 vaccine may be mandatory depending on the employer, it is important to remember that a mandatory vaccine is not new to this country. Children are generally required to receive certain vaccines to attend school, and the State of Ohio mandates certain employees to receive specified vaccines depending on the industry they are in and their job duties.
Now, how could an employer mandate a COVID-19 vaccine for its employees? According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA), employers have the responsibility of ensuring healthy and safe working conditions for employees. So, as long as employers stay within a few boundaries, they generally will be allowed to require employees returning to the workplace to receive a vaccine if it is for the purpose of maintaining a safe and healthy place to work for all employees, clients, etc.
There are two main exceptions to an employer’s right to require its employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. If an employee had a medical reason or a sincerely held religious belief for not receiving the vaccine. If an employee falls within an exception, then the employer must make a reasonable accommodation for the employee to continue working despite not having the vaccine. A reasonable accommodation may include requiring the non-vaccinated employee to wear a mask, to work from home, and/or to stay socially distanced from other employees while at work.
It is important to note that employers would be within their rights to ask an employee for proof of a medical reason or sincerely held religious belief, if an employee were to claim to fall within an exception.
If you, your business, or your family members have questions or concerns regarding your rights as an employer or employee regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, contact Lardiere McNair DiNicola & Stonebrook, Ltd. LPA. to set up a free initial consultation with our legal team.
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Taylor Agler is a Law Clerk at Lardiere McNair DiNicola & Stonebrook, Ltd. To read more about our firm please visit lawyerscolumbusohio.com.