Are There Employment Laws That Allow You to Say No?
The coronavirus pandemic has changed many of the basic assumptions we make every day, and, for some, has pushed the limit of acceptable government intrusion into private life. While we all want to minimize the impact of the virus, we also need to be careful that basic freedoms aren’t violated. COVID vaccines are a case in point. While almost everyone agrees that vaccinations are in the public interest, some have reasons to resist allowing others to compel them to do something.
What about an employer’s requirement that workers must be vaccinated? Does such a requirement run afoul of any employment laws or constitutional protections? Though it’s early in the vaccination process, here’s what you can likely expect, based on guidelines issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in December 2020.
Your Employer Generally Can Require a COVID-19 Vaccination (with Limits)
According to the EEOC, an employer may make employment conditional on proof that you’ve been fully vaccinated, provided your employer does not violate any employment laws when doing so. The EEOC has determined that simply requiring a vaccination does not run afoul of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, provided the vaccine is given without seeking additional medical information. However, if the vaccination requirement has the practical effect of keeping a disabled person out of the workplace, the employer must perform the following assessment:
- The employer must determine whether the disabled person, if unvaccinated, poses a direct and significant risk of “substantial harm” to himself/herself and others; and
- If so, the employer must determine whether that risk of harm can be eliminated or reduced by any type of reasonable accommodation.
When administering a vaccination program for employees, an employer cannot ask any disability-related questions, unless it can be shown that the information sought is job-related or essential to a business necessity.
What If Getting a Vaccine Violates Your Religious Beliefs?
Many individuals hold strong religious beliefs that prevent them from receiving any type of vaccination. Under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, public health interests must be balanced against religious freedom.
According to the EEOC, if an employer knows of an employee’s sincerely-held religious beliefs and understands those beliefs to preclude vaccination, then the employer must, if possible, make a “reasonable accommodation” to allow the worker to keep their job without receiving the vaccine. However, the employer may be relieved of making the reasonable accommodation if doing so would cause “undue hardship.” There is no specific standard for what constitutes an “undue hardship,” but the EEOC suggests that it must involve a material and significant burden.
Contact the Proven Employment Law Attorneys at Bailey & Galyen
At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we offer a free initial consultation to every client. For an appointment with an experienced and effective employment law attorney in Texas, contact us by email or call our offices at 844-402-2992. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.