Legislative Update from Representative R. Lee James

—Examining Employers’ Rights and Penalties Regarding COVID-19 Vaccine Enforcement

As we continue to get Americans back to work, many businesses across the country are requiring their employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment, forcing workers to face a potentially lifechanging decision.

Mandating vaccines remains a controversial issue. While people should be afforded the choice, the question remains: What are the employers’ rights and penalties regarding enforcement of the vaccine?

Under current labor laws, employers have the right to set their terms and conditions of employment. If a worker does not comply, then a company can terminate them. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), this includes COVID-19 vaccinations.

In some circumstances, Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) require an employer to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who, because of a disability or a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance, do not get vaccinated for COVID-19, unless providing an accommodation would pose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business.

Aon, a provider of financial and health products, polled 583 companies across a variety of sectors. Results showed only 7% of businesses say they are firing workers who are not vaccinated. Another 38% claim work-from-home options have been extended for unvaccinated workers, while 20% indicate they are requiring regular COVID-19 tests. According to a September 7 article by The Derrick, spokesperson Colin Milligan of the American Hospital Association said about 39% of U.S. hospitals had announced vaccine mandates.

Experts in business and law believe more companies will institute a vaccine requirement as 2021 draws closer to its completion. As this public health matter continues to remain fluid, it is critical to respect and understand each other’s personal choices

This article was published in the Venango Chamber’s November 2021 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

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