The U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission has confirmed what employment-law experts have theorized for some time: employers can legally mandate that workers get vaccinated against COVID-19. The only exception are religious beliefs or disabilities that may prohibit someone from receiving the vaccine. If that is the case, employers cannot outright fire an employee, but maintains a legal obligation to accommodate the decision. This could be remote work, unpaid leave, or a change in job duties, says MarketWatch. If an employer cannot accommodate, employers can refuse and legally exclude the employee from the workplace.
But the ability to bar an employee from the physical workplace doesn’t mean the employer can automatically fire the person: “Employers will need to determine if any other rights apply under the EEO laws or other federal, state, and local authorities,” the agency said.
Employers are limited in their ability to require medical exams, such as vision tests, blood and urine analyses and diagnostic procedures. But an employer-administered COVID-19 vaccination is not a medical examination, the EEOC said, because the employer isn’t asking for information about the worker’s current health status or impairments. (In contrast, an antibody test does constitute a medical exam under the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the EEOC.)