With COVID-19 vaccination stations opening across the United States, the corporate world will now debate whether or not companies can require employee vaccinations.
Legally speaking, an employer has every right to require new employees to receive the vaccine, just like they have the right to test all their employees for drug use. Nevertheless, employees have argued that what they do in their spare time should not be associated with the workplace. Similar to drinking at the bar is not the same thing as drinking in the workplace. The issue with the right to privacy comes into play.
Cases brought before federal courts about employers who mandate certain tests or treatments typically determine whether or not the request will violate a person’s right to privacy or infringe on their freedoms. In the case of drug tests, the courts have ruled overwhelmingly in the employer’s favor. However, there are very few instances of court cases involving medical treatments like the COVID-19 vaccine.
Logically speaking, any substance that can deteriorate an employee’s work performance or “create a hostile work environment” should be banned from the workplace. It can create undo harm to workers and the company itself. In the case of the COVID-19 vaccine, every employee who receives the vaccination reduces the risk of spreading the virus to fellow employees.
For this reason, companies absolutely can and should force their employees to receive the vaccine.
Unlike mandatory drug tests cases which involve the right to “privacy,” mandatory vaccines simply protect everyone.
Nevertheless, companies are required to accommodate people’s religious beliefs and disability-related needs under federal law. However, the courts have ruled that if employers can prove that accommodating someone who refuses to take the vaccine for a religious belief or disability would cause undue hardship to the company that employee can disqualify that person from employment. Hopefully, companies will attempt to do their utmost to accommodate anyone who refuses to take the vaccine.
Even though companies can force their employees to take one of the COVID-19 vaccines, many companies may not choose to do this based on a cost analysis. In many cases, companies who implement vaccine mandates pay for the vaccine to their employees and pay any sick time employees incur based on the side effects from the vaccine. Some states may incentivize COVID-19 vaccine mandates similar to how Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, and Idaho incentivize corporate drug testing. If that happens, many companies may choose to opt-in for vaccine mandates.
In the end, the chances of companies nationwide unanimously forcing strict vaccine mandates onto their employees is unlikely. Most companies would consider the vaccine mandate an unnecessary cost and would not want to risk becoming involved in what is now, sadly, a political dispute as to whether or not people should take the COVID-19 vaccine.