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Employers can require COVID-19 vaccine, US says

An employee of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, receives one of the first COVID-19 vaccines...
An employee of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, receives one of the first COVID-19 vaccines at the medical center, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020.(Walt Unks/The Winston-Salem Journal via AP)
Published: Dec. 18, 2020 at 11:46 PM CST
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(Gray News) - Employers can require its workers to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and exclude them from the workplace if they refuse, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in guidelines issued earlier this week.

Employers are required by law to ensure a safe workplace and that can mean requiring its workers to be vaccinated.

There are two exceptions for those with disabilities or “sincerely held” religious beliefs that prevent them from getting vaccinated. The employer would need to make reasonable accommodations for these individuals.

While the Americans with Disabilities Act limits an employer’s ability to require workers to get a medical examination, the EEOC says that getting vaccinated is not considered a medical examination.

“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,” the EEOC said in its latest guidelines.

Pre-screening vaccination questions however could violate an ADA provision on disability-related inquiries. This means that employers administering vaccines must show that pre-screening questions are “job-related and consistent with business necessity.”

The guidelines added that while the worker may be excluded from physically entering the workplace for refusing to be vaccinated, that does not mean the employer may automatically terminate the worker.

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