Can Employers Require the COVID-19 Vaccine? Yes...and No

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As the newly developed COVID-19 vaccine makes its rollout - slowly but surely - across the country, many Americans have been left wondering if their employer can require them to receive the two-dose shot, with many people saying they're hesitant to take a new vaccine to immunize against a disease with a 99 percent survival rate for most of the population - and some saying they'll never get it at all.

Even as slews of politicians filmed videos of themselves getting the vaccine to "normalize" it for the public, one mid-December survey found that a full quarter of those polled said they don't want the vaccine at all. Even among health care workers, polls have shown a large percentage - up to 40 percent, in some cases - of frontline medical personnel, who are among the top priority groups to receive the vaccine, say they are hesitant to get the shot right away.

Speaking to Fox8, attorney Ann-Marie Ahern broke down the ins-and-outs of when an employer can, in fact, require that their employees be vaccinated...and when they can't.

 
Ahern explains that legally speaking, employers are usually well within their rights to require their employees to be vaccinated. But given many people's concerns about the COVID-19 immunization, as of right now, most employers are not requiring the vaccine and are rather motivating employees to get vaccinated with incentives such as additional paid time off and bonuses.
 
However, there are a couple of exceptions to when your boss can require you to get the shot as a condition of employment. Depending on the state you live in, employers may have to make accommodations for employees who fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as those with sincerely held religious beliefs, which are protected by the Civil Rights Act. Ms. Ahern explains:
There are some exceptions to that (vaccine requirement). Those exceptions are usually found within your rights under federal and state laws as an employee. If you have a disability that would prevent you from getting the vaccination or would cause you undue concern about getting the vaccination or put you at risk in some way then of course under the Americans with Disabilities Act you would have the ability to object to that and the employer may in fact be required to provide an accommodation. There are also some accommodations that may be required under the Civil Rights Act if the basis of the objection is a sincerely held religious belief.

MRC Merch