Ignorance Is Bliss
The sun is finally setting on the short-lived bliss of the February-through-May decline in COVID infections. Not to be all doom and gloom, but let’s face it—today’s world is constantly shifting and changing. Before we dive into this topic more, please remember that all Journey clients have Journey’s HRNOW offering. Like most payroll companies, this used to be an added service, though since the start of COVID we have turned this on permanently for free for all clients. We are here for you, and in this ever-changing world, you need answers. (We always encourage our clients to call (970) 414-2576 or email HRNOW@JourneyPayroll.com with any questions that are specific to their situation.)
Recently, the surge of the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus has prompted more than talks about vaccination mandates, especially within the Biden administration. With pharmaceutical companies chomping at the bit for a piece of the pie, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson certainly have skin in the game. This has caused nationwide panic and even civil unrest. The question still stands: can employers enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine amongst their employees?
So, don’t exit out of this browser—putting your head in the sand won’t turn back time. Federal vaccination mandates are rolling out, and there is a lot of information you need to know about how the Biden administration can mandate vaccinations.
The Vaccination Mandate Controversy
First off, the biggest controversy is that the mandatory enforcement of a vaccine is unconstitutional because it violates citizens’ rights. However, this is not the case. Any employer can enforce a mandatory vaccination policy due to the safety at work clause. An employer can have a policy for a mandatory vaccination because it is a requirement that an individual shall not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of individuals in the workplace. With the recent FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine and the uptick in the Delta variant of the virus, there is a push for a mandatory vaccination requirement in the workplace. This has caused a stir in many workplaces.
The Vaccination Mandate Exemptions
Secondly, an employer must allow individuals with disabilities and religious exceptions to be exempt from the mandatory vaccination policy. There can be further repercussions for these individuals however such as a change in job or work-from-home status if a viable threat to others’ safety exists. According to the ADA, individuals with disabilities must be allowed an accommodation in the workplace. For instance, many individuals with autism or anxiety do not wear masks as it poses a hazard to their mental wellbeing.
Not only do accommodations have to take place for these individuals, but it is encouraged that employers work alongside the unions to come up with a plan of action for individuals that refuse the mandate. Still, there are ways to encourage the vaccine without mandating it completely. For instance, employers can make it easy and affordable for their employees to become vaccinated. Hosting vaccination clinics in house for free is a great way to increase vaccination rates. Another way to encourage inoculation is by providing those who partake in the vaccine adequate time off in order to recover from the side effects. These are just a few ways to make the vaccine more accessible to employees. Not everyone will partake in the vaccine, but these accommodations will certainly affect the vaccination rate.
Although many employers are not requiring a vaccine, there are still those workplaces that are. For instance, a recent hospital case was tried in court, and the court sided in favor of the hospital. Here are a few solutions for employers whose employees refuse the shot. First, the employees can be terminated. It is fully in the employer’s rights to require a vaccination due to the necessity to provide a safe work environment for all employees. Next, the unvaccinated employees could be required to wear masks. Lastly, employees that refuse the vaccination could be forced to pay fees or fines for refusing. These fees would be refunded once they complied with the vaccination regulations.
These are trying times for everyone all around. Employers are making decisions with the interests of all employees in mind, vaccinated or not. The health and safety of the workplace is a shared and common interest of all parties, employer, and employees alike. The employer is legally able and of sound mind to require a COVID-19 vaccination. The most common employers that are mandating vaccinations are federal and hospital related professions. State workers have yet to be mandated at this time.
Speaking on those employers that are not requiring vaccinations, there are many that are not. According to a recent source, the requirement of a vaccine, does not violate anyone’s civil rights. This is contrary to public belief as many have expressed their outrage at the thought of a mandatory vaccination policy in the workplace. According to local health care officials, the best defense against this new surge of the Delta variant is for every able-bodied person to be inoculated. This could be the reason behind the push for mandatory vaccinations in the workforce. Certainly, the passing of the FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccination has pushed several workplaces to require the vaccine. For instance, Walt Disney World and Ohio State University have recently passed the mandate for vaccinations in accordance with the approval of the Pfizer vaccine.
Stay Informed to Keep Moving Forward
Regardless of whether people agree with vaccination mandates, they are happening. Staying informed is the best thing we can do for ourselves in order to know what the next steps are. While we are living in day-to-day uncertainty, we can rest assured this won’t last forever. Journey will continue to keep you apprised of updated legislation and news on this topic and other relevant COVID-related topics for employers. In addition to our updates, Journey offers free unlimited HR support for every single client. It doesn’t matter if you have one employee or 1,000, HRNOW (unlimited HR support) is available to ALL Journey clients, and we always encourage our clients to call (970) 414-2576 or email HRNOW@JourneyPayroll.com with any questions that are specific to their situation.
- Allen Smith, J. D. (2021, August 23). Employers React to workers who REFUSE vaccination as COVID-19 CASES RISE. SHRM. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/pages/if-workers-refuse-a-covid-19-vaccination.aspx.
- Austin LLP, S. (n.d.). The next wave: Legal and practical considerations for employers regarding covid-19 vaccinations. Insights | Sidley Austin LLP. https://www.sidley.com/en/insights/newsupdates/2021/09/the-next-wave-legal-and-practical-considerations-for-employers-regarding-covid19-vaccinations.
- Kulp, A. (2021, September 8). Employers can require a COVID vaccine, but many still don’t. Delco Times. https://www.delcotimes.com/2021/09/08/covid-vaccine-mandate-businesses-legal/.
- Murphy, T. (2021, September 7). What can employers do If workers avoid COVID-19 vaccines? Pittsburg Post Gazette. https://www.post-gazette.com/business/career-workplace/2021/09/07/covid-19-vaccine-employers-workplace-policy-employees-coronavirus-vaccines-shots/stories/202109070011.