Mandating the COVID-19 Vaccine for Staff

The following Q&A appears here courtesy of SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, which has offered extensive, free resources for employers throughout the pandemic. Additional SHRM resources are listed below.

Can you mandate COVID-19 vaccination for employees? The short answer is, yes.

Currently, there aren’t valid legal arguments forbidding private employers from requiring vaccinations against COVID-19, except that legally required accommodations must be provided.

What are the legally required accommodations?

Based on the current EEOC and CDC guidance, employers can require vaccinations as long as certain legal steps are taken, and based on the CDC’s guidance, this should include individuals who already had COVID-19.

Objections based on a previous COVID-19 infection would have to be made through the reasonable accommodation request process and the employer should then follow its normal accommodation procedures to determine if the following applies:

  • The employee has a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that conflicts with the employment policy. While COVID-19 that lasted a short time and didn’t substantially limit a major life activity would not be an ADA disability, a “COVID-19 long-hauler” may have an ADA disability that must be reasonably accommodated.
  • A reasonable accommodation can be provided without an undue hardship on the employer.

Can I mandate a vaccine for employees who have already had COVID-19?

Yes, the vaccine mandates can include employees who have been infected with and recovered from COVID-19. Read more.

What does the Pfizer vaccine’s full approval mean for employers’ COVID-19 policies?

Employment law attorneys generally have said that private employers can require at-will employees to get a vaccine authorized for emergency use. But the full authorization does mitigate concerns from some people who thought there hadn’t been enough research into the vaccines. Employers should note that they still need to explore reasonable accommodations for employees with religious and disability-related objections. Read more.

Are there template vaccination policies available?

Yes, SHRM offers both mandatory and voluntary sample policies. Click below to download templates:

Other Resources

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