As employers struggle to plan for returning to the office despite COVID-19, the Delta variant has reared its head. Some companies have decided to delay returns, while others are mandating vaccines as the CDC’s top recommended way to keep employees safe from variants. But does mandating vaccines put your company in danger of being sued?
What to consider
Yes, some employees have sued when required to get vaccinated against COVID-19, although the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) doesn’t prohibit employers from formally mandating vaccines. If this is the step you decide to take, it’s important to arm yourself with some important information so you’re prepared.
Understand possible objections
What you might face are employees who deny the vaccine due to religious reasons or for medical concerns. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that certain employees may need to be excused or accommodated by alternate means. You may also encounter employees who decline vaccination simply because they don’t feel comfortable getting it. All of these are valid reasons and objections you may be faced with.
Know your own risks
Another concern is the sheer number of employees who may refuse to get vaccinated and the potential outcomes your company could face. This is especially true if a consequence of your vaccine mandate is termination. If a large percentage of employees refuse vaccination, you may face massive terminations and the need to replace a large number of employees. Also, exceptions for religious beliefs and medical concerns could lead to discrimination claims on behalf of other employees, and subsequent legal action.
Alternatives to consider
Before requiring employees to get vaccinated, consider the level of risk presented if they don’t. This includes how long they’re in situations that could lead to transmission and the likelihood it will happen. For example, if a large percentage of your workforce is operating from home, mandatory vaccines may be much less of a concern.
Rather than mandate vaccines, you can take other steps to keep your employees and your workplace safe, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC:
- Require personal protective equipment, such as face masks or gloves, while employees are in the office.
- Maintain social distancing and barriers.
- Encourage regular hand washing and use of hand sanitizer.
- Require employees to stay home from the office if they aren’t feeling well, have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19.
- Implement a hybrid work model or delay returning to the office.
Assess your risks
When deciding to mandate vaccines, you can always consult your legal counsel for their insight and recommendations. It also helps to have a risk management expert on your side. Odell Studner specializes in risk management and mitigation, and we’re ready to talk to you about vaccine mandate concerns. To learn more, contact us today!