By: Gregg Zeff
On: February 24, 2021
As the coronavirus vaccine becomes more widely available in New Jersey, many questions have arisen surrounding the issue of whether employers will be able to require employees to get the vaccine. Zeff Law Firm takes a quick look and answers some questions on this subject.
Can Employers Require That Workers Take the Coronavirus Vaccine?
This is a novel question in the realm of employment law, but all legal precedent indicates that an employer can require their employees to get the Covid-19 vaccine. The reasoning for this stems from an employer’s duty to ensure that its employees have a safe and healthy working environment. Since the failure to obtain a Covid-19 vaccine could potentially compromise the health and safety of other individuals sharing the same workspace, employers can require the vaccine.
How is New Jersey Rolling Out Covid-19 Vaccines?
New Jersey, like many states, is rolling out the Covid-19 vaccine in a phased approach, making the vaccine available first to those who are most at risk of exposure or severe complications from the coronavirus. Currently, those working in healthcare assisted living and elderly care, or first responders are eligible to get the Covid-19 vaccine. Additionally, those considered ‘high-risk,” such as individuals over 65 years old, those with chronic or serious illnesses, and those with compromised immune systems are currently eligible. Once those individuals are vaccinated, the general public will have access to the vaccine.
Are Employees Covered by the ADA Exempt from the Coronavirus Vaccine Requirement?
The EEOC has offered the opinion that for purposes of the ADA, the vaccine itself is nor considered a medical examination because the employer is not seeking medical information about the individual’s health or disabilities. Additionally, an employer may be able to ask questions related to pre-vaccination medical screening if those questions are “job-related and consistent with business necessity.” To do this, the employer would need to demonstrate that they have a reasonable belief based on valid evidence that an employee’s failure to receive the vaccination would pose a threat to the health and safety to themselves or other employees. Given the severity of the pandemic and the substantial evidence that failure to vaccinate would likely pose a risk that the employee or other employees could contract the coronavirus, it is unlikely that ADA employees would be exempt from an employer’s Covid-19 vaccine requirement except in very specific circumstances. Contact the employment lawyers at the Zeff Law Firm to discuss the specifics of your case.
Are there other Exceptions to an Employer Requirement to be Vaccinated?
There are two important exceptions to an employer’s ability to require vaccination.
- The employee can demonstrate that a disability makes it objectively dangerous for the individual to receive the vaccination. An individual in this position should anticipate working with their employer to determine potential options for ensuring their own personal safety and also the safety of other employees.
- The individual refuses to get the Covid-19 vaccine due to sincerely held religious beliefs. However, it is important to remember that an employer is not required to provide special accommodations for an individual with strong religious beliefs in the same way they are required to accommodate individuals with disabilities. Given the compelling risk posed by an individual’s failure to obtain the vaccine, employers will have a strong argument for requiring the vaccine despite an individual’s personal beliefs.
If you have specific questions about possible exemptions, contact an employment lawyer at the Zeff Law Firm today.
Is it an Invasion of Medical Privacy to Ask for Proof of Covid Vaccination?
Employers are prohibited from asking employees about their personal medical conditions or disabilities. An employer asking whether an employee has received a vaccine will not likely fall into this category because the question does not seek any specific information about an individual’s health. However, additional questions about an individual’s reasons for failing to obtain the Covid-19 vaccine may cross into this territory. If you believe your employer is asking inappropriate questions about your medical history, contact an employment attorney today.
What if Employees don’t Feel Comfortable in the Workplace with Employees who have not been Vaccinated?
Employers are required to ensure that the workplace is safe for all employees – that’s well established. Failure to receive a Covid-19 vaccine can increase the risk of contracting the disease that the vaccine is designed to prevent. If you feel that your workplace is unsafe, you should raise these concerns with your employer. If you feel that your employer is inadequately responding to employees’ failure to vaccinate, you should contact an employment attorney.
When is it Appropriate to Contact an Employment Lawyer Concerning Coronavirus Vaccine Requirements?
If you find yourself in a position where you feel your job is in jeopardy due to an employer’s inquiries about why you have not received a Covid-19 vaccine, it may be appropriate to contact an employment lawyer. Additionally, if you are an employee worried about your health and safety due to another’s failure to receive the vaccine, it may also be a good idea to speak with an employment attorney. The lawyers at Zeff Law Firm can evaluate your situation and give you the legal guidance you need.