Can an employer require you to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

People often believe that there are limits to what their employers can request them to do, and in most cases, they are right. However, when it comes to workplace safety, and employer can ask that you have certain vaccinations without violating your rights under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission laws.

According to the EEOC, businesses are allowed to offer incentives to their employees to get them vaccinated. They can also ask them to provide documentation of vaccination and give an incentive for COVID-19 vaccination, too.

The incentives aren’t allowed to be coercive. Unfortunately, coercion is a gray area, so what exactly coercive means in this context isn’t clear. Incentives should, however, encourage people to volunteer to participate. Coercive techniques usually use huge payments or benefits to greatly increase the likelihood of compliance.

Does everyone have to get the vaccine, or can some employees opt out?

It is important to remember that some employees won’t be able to get vaccinated for a number of reasons, such as having a disability, specific religious beliefs or an illness that makes it impossible or dangerous for them to get vaccinated. Pregnant women may also opt out in most cases, thanks to the EEOC’s guidance on reasonable accommodations. Demanding or coercing these individuals into getting the vaccine may be discriminatory and a violation of the law.

It has been claimed that businesses asking for your proof of vaccination would be a violation of your rights, but that is not the case.

What should you do if you can’t get the vaccine?

If your employer is asking you to get the vaccine but you cannot due to protected reasons, then it’s important to talk to them about that issue. Let them know that your religion, health, pregnancy, disability or other factor prevents you from getting the vaccine. Most employers will then make an exception.

If yours does not want to make an exception for you, then they may be in violation of the law. If so, you may want to talk to your human resources department or learn more about the legal options you have moving forward.

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