On December 8, 2020, the United Kingdom became the first Western nation to vaccinate patients against COVID-19. Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration concluded in a detailed analysis that the first COVID-19 vaccine being considered for U.S. distribution “met the prescribed success criteria” in a clinical study, paving the way for the agency to green-light distribution as early as this weekend.
While the vaccine will not be available generally for citizens until 2021, employers have begun to raise the question of mandatory vaccination as a work requirement or condition of employment. At present, no law, regulation, or other guidance directly addresses whether employers may require their employees to get a COVID-19 vaccination. The idea is not new; many healthcare workers are currently required to receive certain vaccinations as a condition of their employment.
The EEOC updated its Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace guidance on March 19, 2020 to address the COVID-19 pandemic advising employers to “follow guidance from the CDC as well as state/local public health authorities.” Notably, the CDC has issued guidance recommending influenza vaccination for critical industries during a pandemic.
It is likely that the EEOC will issue updated guidance to address the issue of COVID-19 vaccinations in the workplace in the near future. Additionally, there are currently discussions within State government concerning how to address this issue within the State law context. Until some action is taken, it appears that employers may require employees to receive vaccinations when available, subject to the restrictions identified by the EEOC and OSHA.
As the pandemic vaccine situation develops and evolves, R&R Insurance will continue to monitor new laws and guidance from federal and state authorities and continue to keep you informed. Employers should weigh the legal exposure and other risks associated with any mandatory vaccination program, and assess whether the alternative of voluntary vaccination may be a better option based on the nature and needs of their businesses. You can read more in the client advisory made available from von Briesen & Roper.
Please visit our COVID-19: Business Recovery Resources webpage for the latest information and quick references on a variety of industries with guidelines and considerations for getting back to full operation. And visit our R&R Coronavirus Resources webpage for future updates and resources.
Please contact your R&R representative with any questions.