What Every Employer Needs to Consider
The COVID pandemic is continuing with spikes showing up throughout the country. While over 65% of Americans have received at least one vaccine shot, there still rages a great debate over whether or not to get the vaccine. On the one hand, people are concerned that not getting the vaccine may put themselves or a loved one at risk of contracting the virus. On the other hand, there is an equally compelling argument about personal choice. These issues are at the forefront in the employment context.
Currently, the Biden Administration has put forth a mandate that employers of over 100 employees, certain health care workers, and government employees must get the vaccine or show proof of a negative covid test in order to work. This mandate is being hotly debated and is certain to lead to many court challenges before it is set to go into effect on January 3, 2022. The issue to consider is: what about a private employer that employs less than 100 employees?. Currently, there is no prohibition on private employers (of less than 100 employees) implementing a mandatory vaccine program in their workplace. If such a private employer does decide to put a mandatory vaccine program in place, here are some things to consider:
- Timing and Communication of the Program: Carefully consider the best way to communicate that this new policy will be going into effect. Also, give employees enough time to comply with the new policy. With a time lag between full vaccination efficacy and the possibility of needed booster shots, it may be some time before an employee is considered “fully vaccinated”.
- Reasonable Accommodations: There are still both federal and state laws that may require an employer to work with an employee who has either a disability or sincerely held religious belief that would preclude them from receiving the vaccine. Employers should be prepared to enter into the interactive process to see if there are any reasonable accommodations that would still allow the employee to carry out the essential functions of their job.
- Vaccination Recordkeeping: An employee’s vaccination status should be treated the same as any other medical information. This means that the information should be kept confidential and in a separate file folder away from any other employment information concerning that employee. The information should only be shared with those individuals within the company with a legitimate business or health and safety reason to access it.
- Mask Wearing Policies: Just because an employer decides to make vaccinations mandatory does not mean that mask wearing policies should be jettisoned. Employers should continue to follow the most up to date guidance from governmental health authorities as to mask requirements. OSHA now recommends that fully vaccinated workers in areas of substantial or high community transmission wear masks in order to protect unvaccinated workers.
- Wage and Hour Issues: There may be compensation issues for the time spent by employees traveling to and from sites to receive the vaccine during working hours. Employers may want to consider paid time off in order to allow the employee to receive the employer mandated vaccine.
- Public Relations Issues: as stated earlier, there is a great divide on the topic of vaccinations among workers. If a mandatory vaccine program is implemented, employers should be prepared for a certain degree of resistance from certain groups within their workplace which could lead to negative commentary (and perhaps protected free speech) on social media and in the press.
- Fighting Misinformation: There is no shortage of misinformation out there on social media, the press, tv commentators and the like. Employers should be prepared to proactively address such misinformation by sharing only credible and accurate information.
As you can see, there are a number of factors to consider if an employer wishes to implement a mandatory vaccination program at work. A skilled employment lawyer can help with a smooth rollout of such a program.
With over 37 years’ experience in advising employers and employees on workplace issues, let Boznos Law work with you to ensure you are ready to meet the challenges posed by the changes to the employment laws. Call Bill Boznos today at (630) 375-1958 or contact us at www.boznoslawoffice.com/contact-us through our website.