There is still a long way to go, but early December saw the first COVID-19 vaccines’ rollout. It will be months before the average person will have access to the two-shot process. Frontline workers will get their shots sooner, as will those in specific industries.
Now that the vaccine is available, some employers weigh whether they will mandate that employees get the shots. Healthcare and other essential workers will have no choice. However, other employees will be resistant to the idea because they do not believe in getting the shots. This is supported by a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, which found that 40% of Americans would definitely or probably not get the vaccine when it was available to them. The number is up from a few months ago when more had doubts, and this number may further climb as the winter months bring increasing numbers of COVID-related deaths, and there is good news about the vaccine’s success.
Employers generally can insist
Employees may have doubts, but employers are obligated under the law to provide a safe work environment. There is also likely the additional motivation that they want to be on the leading edge of economic recovery after months of treading water or operating at a loss. Employers are generally within their rights to mandate the vaccine, but there are exemptions:
- Those not doing it as protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other anti-discrimination laws
- Those with medical reasons
- Those not doing it until their union signs off on it as part of their collective bargaining agreement
An alternative solution for those unable to get the vaccine would be to continue working from home until herd immunity takes over.
Side-effects and illness
As with regular flu shots, where the cure may cause mild illness, these COVID vaccines could cause side-effects. The employer will likely not be liable for a personal injury lawsuit, but workers can a workers’ compensation claim because it is classified as an on-the-job injury. It could further calm workers who are nervous about getting these newly developed shots.
A spoonful of sugar
Employers may also attempt to use the “spoonful of sugar” approach. This includes reduced COVID testing for employees coming to work, a financial bonus for those who get the shot or other perks.