Mandatory COVID-19 vaccination: Is it legal and is it right for your workplace?

By all accounts, the availability of a vaccine for COVID-19 is a matter of when, not if. According to the World Health Organization, as of August 25, 2020, 173 potential vaccines are currently being developed in labs across the world, 31 of which have advanced to clinical stage testing on humans.  Drug manufacturers estimate that a vaccine will be ready and approved for general use by the end of this year or early 2021.

Naturally, employers are beginning to ask the question: “Can we require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19?’  In general, the answer is yes, according to the National Law Report.

Employers may implement mandatory vaccination programs, subject to limited exemptions. Although the issue is only now coming to the forefront of our national conscience, mandatory vaccinations in the workplace are not new, and are particularly prevalent among healthcare providers. Some variability exists under federal law and among federal agencies, but for the most part, mandatory programs are permissible, as long as employers consider religious accommodation requests under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and medical accommodation requests under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).