Our Swartz & Swartz team has been getting a lot of questions about whether employers can legally require their employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine before resuming work
By: David Angueira
Senior Trial Lawyer – Employment Litigation, Medical Malpractice, Product Liability, Discrimination, Whistle Blower, False Claims
Our Swartz & Swartz team has been getting a lot of questions about whether employers can legally require their employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine before resuming work, and if refusing the vaccine could be grounds for dismissal. In today’s blog post, we will explore the answers to these questions so that you know your rights and what you might expect to hear from your boss before returning to work.
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According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC), Federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19, so long as employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This means that no law on the books that would prohibit your employer form requiring you to get the jab.
If you are skeptical, look no further than Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s recent order, declaring that all of the state’s Executive Branch employees must provide proof that they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 17, 2021 or face “disciplinary action, up to and including termination.” UMass Lowell and UMass Boston are also requiring students to be vaccinated if they want to be on campus, and if fact, won a legal challenge from students who opposed the vaccine mandate. Companies from Walmart, Netflix to Citigroup are all telling their employees they need to get vaccinated or provide proof of vaccination if they want to return to work.
However, no matter where you work, as an employee, you do have the right to request an exemption from getting the COVID-19 vaccine provided it is for legitimate medical or religious reasons. What does this mean? It means that if your objection to getting vaccinated is based on your true religious beliefs or a serious medical condition your employer needs to try to make accommodations for you.
However, no matter where you work, as an employee, you do have the right to request an exemption from getting the COVID-19 vaccine provided it is for legitimate medical or religious reasons. What does this mean?
The Civil Rights Act of 1964, clearly states that, “denying a requested reasonable accommodation of an applicant’s or employees sincerely held religious beliefs or practices” is prohibited. Similarly, the Americans with Disabilities Act, states that if you cannot safely receive a vaccine for medical reasons, your employer must try to accommodate you.
However, if your objection to getting a vaccine before you return to work is based on political, economic, or social beliefs, your objection may not be considered to be legitimate under U.S. law. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be fired. Before that can happen, your employer will have to make sure that there are no local, state, or other federal regulations that need to be taken into account based on your unique circumstances and the type of work you do.
While you have the right to request a COVID-19 vaccine exemption based on your true religious beliefs or a serious medical condition, your employer can deny your accommodation request if it results in “undue hardship.” This essentially means that if accommodating your vaccination exemption would put the health and safety of other employees at risks, be too costly or result in a logistical nightmare, your employer can refuse your accommodation request.
If you have employment-related questions regarding wrongful termination or discrimination, please do not hesitate to contact us. Call our Boston, Massachusetts office at (617) 742-1900, or toll-free at 1-800-545-3732.
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