Employers can require workers get COVID-19 vaccine, EEOC says

Employers can require workers get COVID-19 vaccine, EEOC says
A COVID-19 vacation appointments sign points the way at Edward Hospital in Naperville, Ill., Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. (Nam Y. Huh/AP, File)

The agency tasked with enforcing federal laws prohibiting workplace discrimination this week confirmed that employers can require that workers get vaccinated against COVID-19.

In guidelines released Wednesday, officials with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said mandating vaccinations does not violate the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits employers from requiring medical examinations of employees, except under limited circumstances.

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“If a vaccine is administered to an employee by an employer for protection against contracting COVID-19, the employer is not seeking information about an individual’s impairments or current health status, and, therefore, it is not a medical examination,” EEOC officials said in the updated guidelines.

The commission added that employers can require employees show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination without violating employment discrimination laws.

“There are many reasons that may explain why an employee has not been vaccinated, which may or may not be disability-related,” according to the EEOC. “Simply requiring proof of receipt of a COVID-19 vaccination is not likely to elicit information about a disability and, therefore, is not a disability-related inquiry.”

Officials issued the guidance as health care workers nationwide began to receive the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by American drug manufacturer Pfizer and German biotechnology company BioNTech. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week authorized emergency use of the drug, which has been shown to be 95% effective in its clinical trial.

Regulators on Friday issued an emergency use authorization for a second COVID-19 vaccine developed by Massachusetts-based biotechnology company Moderna. The vaccine could be available beginning early next week.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee is expected to recommend the vaccine over the weekend. The recommendation will needed to be signed off by CDC Director Robert Redfield before vaccinations can begin.

The U.S. continues to lead the world with the most reported coronavirus infections and the highest number of deaths. As of Saturday morning, more than 17.4 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported nationwide, resulting in over 313,000 deaths, according to a count from Johns Hopkins University.

More than 75.8 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported globally, resulting in over 1.6 million deaths.