COVID-19 vaccine mandates in the workplace are sweeping the country, but some employees are refusing to abide by the rules, even if it means losing their jobs. While employers have the right to impose a vaccine mandate for their company, they also recognize the risks in losing valuable employees and are wondering how to ethically and legally accommodate those employees.
How can employers accommodate employees refusing to get vaccinated and where should they draw the line?
If an employee refuses to receive a COVID-19 vaccination on the basis of a disability or medical condition, the employer is responsible for evaluating the risk the non-vaccinated employee poses to the rest of the workplace. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that if a vaccination requirement removes an employee with a disability, the employee must determine if there is a “direct threat” with a “significant risk of substantial harm that cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.” If an employee poses a direct threat, their employer should evaluate if a reasonable accommodation can be made, such as allowing them to work remotely or take a leave of absence, as opposed to letting them go. They should also determine whether there is a job the employee could do that would not require a vaccine mandate.
The EEOC states in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 196 that an employer must accommodate for an employee’s sincerely held religious belief unless the accommodation would cause “undue hardship” to the business: “The term ‘religion’ includes all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief unless an employer demonstrates that he is unable to reasonably accommodate to an employee’s or prospective employee’s religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.” However, an employer can request additional supporting information if he or she has reason to question the religious nature or sincerity of the belief. In the case that an accommodation would be unreasonable for the employer to put in place (such as if it would strain other employees or the work being done), an alternative is allowing the employee to work from home, removing them from the workplace but not their job.
Employers who plan on developing a vaccine mandate for their workplace, whether required by law or personal preference, should communicate effectively with their employees on the future vaccine mandate. Informing and being honest with employees is the first step to encouraging them to get vaccinated, in addition to drafting a vaccine and testing policy with Human Resources. Employers should also work with HR to determine whether they are a federal government contractor or not and if their company is required to have a mandate by updated laws. To learn more about how employers can prepare for a vaccine mandate, read our article on “How to Handle a Vaccine Mandate in the Workplace” at https://www.clearstar.net/how-to-handle-a-vaccine-mandate-in-the-workplace/.
ClearStar and COVID Vaccines
Employers may need to continue testing their employees if they decide to do weekly testing for those who are unvaccinated or if they are suspected of having a breakthrough case. If an employer needs to test an employee for COVID, ClearStar provides a CRL Rapid Response™ kit — a saliva-based molecular diagnostic test — to determine whether the virus is active or not. The results are available within 24-48 hours, on average. Keep in mind that all COVID-19 screening results must be kept confidential.
To place an order for a COVID-19 test, contact the ClearStar Medical Information Services office at 321.821.3383 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To ask about background checks and other medical screening services, call +1.888.982.4648 or visit https://www.clearstar.net/contact/.