The recent rollout of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines has caused many employers to ask whether they may require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to keep their workplaces safe. New Jersey and New York have led the nation in terms of positive test results and deaths.
Can Employers Make COVID-19 Vaccination Mandatory?
Yes. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has determined coronavirus vaccinations can be mandated without violating the Americans With Disabilities Act, as disability-related inquiries must by law be “job-related and consistent with business necessity.”
Moreover, under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”) employers may enforce a mandatory vaccine policy against workers who cite safety fears, because that objection isn’t covered under any of the LAD’s legal exemptions.
Do Employees Have a Right to Refuse COVID Vaccinations?
Nonetheless, employees may object to the mandatory enforcement of a vaccine policy based on legitimate concerns and needs.
Some potential issues that workers can raise:
- Disability accommodation if the worker has an underlying medical condition that disqualifies them from the vaccine
- Religious accommodation if the vaccination goes against their religious beliefs
Some of these issues in all likelihood would be protected under the NJLAD against discrimination for religion, disability and even a perceived disability.
Can Employers Fire Workers Who Refuse Vaccination?
If an employer requires mandatory COVID vaccination and a worker refuses vaccination, employers may have the right to fire the individual, unless you have a disability or religious exemption for not getting the vaccine.
Should Employers Have Mandatory Vaccination Policies?
Although employers can mandate the vaccine, it may be better to just strongly encourage or incentivize the vaccine in order to avoid potential discrimination issues. Many employers have opted to implement a voluntary program together with a strong educational program to get employees more comfortable with the idea. It is best for employers to formulate a strategy now for when vaccines do become generally available to the public.
Indeed, a large number of people are still skeptical about the vaccine and the speed at which it received regulatory approval.
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If you have a question about an employment-related matter in New Jersey, such as discrimination, wrongful termination, retaliation, or another issue, feel free to call our employment law attorneys for help.