Understanding Required Vaccinations at Work
For more than two decades, Workplace Fairness has advocated for the rights of workers and their safety on the job. For this reason, the organization encourages employees who do not have medical or religious restrictions to get vaccinated to protect themselves and others in the workplace and beyond.
At the peak of the pandemic, workers were put at risk by employers who resumed near-normal operations without enforcing workplace safety precautions such as social distancing and vaccine or testing requirements. Now, almost two years after it’s onset, workers are eager for proper protection and are advocating for their right to a safe workplace. Given the determination to get back to “normal,” it’s not surprising that we’re seeing a push for widespread vaccination. Since the introduction of the vaccine, only 1 positive case per every 5,000 fully-vaccinated individuals has been reported per week, providing evidence that vaccinated workers may be the only pathway back to working in person without increased risk.
A growing body of research showing the vaccine’s effectiveness influenced President Biden’s COVID-19 Action Plan which is currently in litigation and implementation is in limbo. The proposal would require:
- Vaccinations or weekly testing for those employed at businesses with 100+ employees
- Vaccinations for all federal workers and government contractors
- Vaccinations for healthcare workers in most care settings
- Paid time off for employees to get vaccinated
If the plan is implemented by OSHA, over two-thirds of the U.S. workforce will be expected to get vaccinated to maintain employment. While these precautionary measures could prove effective at minimizing outbreaks and increasing public health protections, we will inevitably experience some hesitant workers leaving their positions.
Such vaccination and testing requirements have sparked concerns about individual liberties and present legal issues currently being addressed by the courts. When faced with novel public health legislation, as well as CDC and other guidance changing frequently, it can be particularly difficult for employees to understand their rights.
The EEOC indicates that it is legal for employers to require vaccinations as well as ban unvaccinated employees from the workplace as long as reasonable accommodations are made for workers with a disability or sincerely-held religious beliefs, their confidentiality is not violated and the employer’s decisions are not discriminatory.
Regardless of whether your employer enacts vaccine requirements, it’s important for employees to continue to take precautions to avoid the spread of COVID-19 using methods provided by the CDC.
Visit our COVID-19 Resources page to stay informed about your rights and new developments regarding COVID-19 and the workplace.
***Important Update: On December 17, 2021, the Sixth Circuit ordered the stay of OSHA's ETS to be dissolved. In light of this ruling, covered employers must determine employee vaccination status, adopt their compliance policy, begin providing paid time for employees to get vaccinated, and begin requiring employees who are not fully vaccinated to wear masks in the workplace by January 10, 2022. Employees who are not fully vaccinated and whose employers have a “vaccinate-or-test” policy must begin mandatory, regular testing by February 9, 2022.
About Workplace Fairness
Founded in 1994 as the National Employee Rights Institute, Workplace Fairness (WF) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that creates and maintains a comprehensive, digital one-stop-shop for free and unbiased information about workers and their legal rights in the workplace. The organization provides resources on their award-winning website that resolve work-related issues and encourage policymakers, members of the business community, and the public at large to view the fair treatment of workers as both good business practice and sound public policy.
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