How far can an employer go to require a COVID-19 vaccine?

Countdown To The Draft
April 29 2021 08:00 pm

COLUMBUS — Where does the law stand when it comes to potentially requiring employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

An employment attorney says businesses are already reaching out asking for legal advice when it comes to this.

Attorney Greg Mansell says he’s been getting calls about this since February and March, before a vaccine was ready to go, and it’s a hot topic in his business.

“The EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] doesn’t specifically say that this is a lawful policy or an unlawful policy,” Mansell said about the idea of a workplace COVID-19 vaccine policy.

He says when it comes to this, employers can’t violate the Americans with Disabilities Act or Title VII. Those relate to medical exams and inquiries as well as exemptions based on religion. Mansell says legal accommodations should be made as long it’s within reason.

“The reasonable accommodation process is intended to be individualized and is going to look at the specific circumstances for that individual person and it’s gotta be fact-based and interactive process between the employer and employee.”

People we caught up with say this idea isn’t surprising to them.

“So initial reaction seems pretty sensible to me,” said Steven Brown, a local professor. “Anytime we’re putting other people at risk we should have some kind of responsibly to make sure we’ve been doing our part healthwise doesn’t strike me as crazy.”

Others say first we have to worry about the efficacy of the vaccines.

“A lot of people should be trying to work from home if they can and maybe not going back into the office instead of trying to get the vaccine to people who otherwise wouldn’t need it if they could stay at home, said Hunter Young, who was visiting from Raleigh, North Carolina.

He says he remains hopeful for the future.

“It’s important thing to vaccinate people against any number of thing.”

This is something Mansell says his industry has to watch closely.

“This is always something where you can’t just go on the internet and trust what’s out there because there isn’t a lot of guidance and a lot of case law interpreting the guidance or the laws in this specific situation yet because it’s so new.”

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