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With the prospect of a coronavirus vaccine drawing sooner than many had initially expected, labor and employment lawyers are seeing a surge in clients asking the same question: Is it legal to make workplace COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory?
Pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna have both said that their vaccines are about 95% effective.
Pfizer applied for emergency authorization for its vaccine on Friday, and it could be available by mid to late December if regulators sign off on it.
Employers are already considering their next steps — and are turning to attorneys for legal advice.
L&E lawyers told Business Insider that they’ve been fielding a couple of calls every day from clients, ranging from white-collar workplaces to healthcare companies, specifically about the question of whether they can make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for their employees.
Jimmy Robinson, managing shareholder at the L&E firm Ogletree Deakins, said that seven different clients reached out to him on one day with that concern.
“They all want to make sure they’re taking care of their workforce,” he explained. “They want to protect their biggest asset: not the product, but the people.”
Recognizing the rise in demand for legal advice surrounding the vaccine, Ogletree has formed a vaccination task force dedicated to providing consolidated advice across the firm’s 54 offices, similar to the coronavirus task force it had launched over the past year, said Robinson.
Read more: Labor and employment attorneys are seeing a surge in business, and big firms are setting up coronavirus task forces to help clients navigate layoffs and workplace safety
So can you make a coronavirus vaccination mandatory at the workplace?
The most common question that clients are asking: Can you make it mandatory for employees to get a coronavirus vaccine?
The short answer is yes, though there should be medical and religious accommodations in place, said Robinson. He added that the requirements surrounding accommodations may vary from state to state, and court to court.
That said, employers must also meet one of the standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to Karla Grossenbacher, chair of Seyfarth Shaw’s L&E practice in Washington, DC.
Under the ADA, employers can require medical examinations and vaccinations from their employees if it is necessary for their profession — as is the case with some healthcare workers, for example — or if it poses a “direct threat” to the health and safety of the individual should they be exempted, Grossenbacher explained.
While the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination, has designated COVID-19 as a direct threat, allowing employers to mandate temperature checks, mask wearing, and social distancing measures, it has yet to issue any similar guidance when it comes to coronavirus vaccinations.
Though the EEOC previously issued guidance on the flu vaccine, recommending that employers simply recommend that employees get vaccinated rather than requiring it, the “direct threat” standard and the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic may change that, depending on what we end up learning about the vaccines, said Grossenbacher.
Michael Roche, who leads the labor and …read more
Source:: Businessinsider – Finance