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 March 10, 2021

Can COVID Vaccine Refusal Cost You Your Job? Yes, If You’re Not Prepared

Employee in a mask kneeling in office
The COVID-19 vaccines are rolling out, which is wonderful news for everyone that’s been tapping their feet on the waiting list for quite some time to receive it. According to the Pew Research Center, however, 1 in 4 Americans said they would either “probably” or “definitely” not get the vaccine. What does the rollout mean for them?

Well, for some of them, they might have to ask themselves whether they’re willing to roll the dice on their livelihood in pursuit of not getting vaccinated.

That’s right. Employers can legally require their employees to get vaccinated.

They can even fire employees who are not willing. And in the midst of an unemployment crisis, Americans will really have to think twice about whether not receiving the vaccine is more important than keeping their job.

Would employers really terminate employees who don’t want the vaccine? The answer is, yes. For many small businesses like restaurants, having all their employees vaccinated provides an advantage in the post-Covid era. Think about it: If a restaurant owner can say all their employees have been vaccinated, it makes customers feel safer and more relaxed eating there, which is necessary for their business.

Of course, there are a few noteworthy exceptions to this rule.

  • Unionized workforces: If a workforce is unionized, the collective bargaining agreement could require negotiating with the union before requiring a vaccine.
  • Medical reasons: Employees under the Americans with Disabilities Act can request an exemption. In this case, the employer would have to provide proper accommodation, like allowing the employee to work from home.
  • Religious beliefs: Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, people can potentially opt out if they consider the vaccine a violation to a “sincerely held” religious belief.

How long until this starts to happen?

As of right now, it’s unclear. Companies are advised to wait until the vaccine is more accessible for everyone, and right now, the question of when that will be is still a bit hazy.

Later this week, the FDA will decide whether to grant emergency use authorization (EUA) to Pfizer and BioTech, and if they do, the vaccine can become more obtainable, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s fully approved. Companies and businesses may have to wait until the FDA finishes completely approving the Pfizer-BioTech vaccine before mandating vaccination in the workplace.

One thing is clear though: If employers do require their employees to be vaccinated, they are not liable for side effects that may develop. These would be routed through worker’s compensation programs and treated like an “on-the-job injury.”

The vaccine reward system.

Since employers are waiting to make it a requirement over the next few months for more of a significant number of people to be vaccinated, right now employers might consider simply offering perks for employees for getting vaccinated.

For example, one reward could be not requiring employees who received the vaccine to wear masks or have their temperature taken. Other employers might go as far as offering financial perks to those receiving the vaccine, like cash bonuses.

For employees that work in service-based environments where COVID-19 is more likely to spread, the reward of getting vaccinated might be simply keeping their job. And as the U.S. unemployment rate continues to suffer, Americans might not have the choice to say no.

Understanding your employee rights.

Employees everywhere have seen their job status thrown into uncertainty over the coronavirus pandemic.

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