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Man with a face mask receiving an injection

Can My Employer Require Me
to Get a COVID-19 Vaccination?

Lusby & Brooks, P.A April 7, 2022

There seems to be no end to how long the COVID 19 pandemic will wreak havoc on the lives of Americans. From our children being disadvantaged due to shut-down schools, to federal and local masking requirements, and now to vaccination mandates, it can leave many of us feeling like our rights are being stripped from us and that we’re no longer permitted to make choices that are right for ourselves and our families. If you’re concerned about the degradation of your rights including a potential employer COVID vaccine requirement, contact our attorneys at Lusby & Brooks, P.A today to talk about your options. As Christian conservatives, we’re proud to serve our community members from our offices in Wilson, North Carolina, but can help those throughout North Carolina including Wilmington, Fayetteville, Jacksonville, Raleigh, Charlotte, and Greensboro.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Guidance

In December of 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its guidance on the COVID 19 vaccine and the workplace. They stated that employers can require their employees to get the vaccine, though there are certain exemptions that employees can take advantage of. The two most important of these exemptions are for medical reasons (like a disability or condition that prevents you from getting the vaccine safely) and religious reasons. Note that just because it’s legal under federal law to require a vaccine as a condition of employment, not all employers are doing this. However, if your employer is, you need to understand your rights to have this waived, and how they must accommodate you if you choose to remain unvaccinated.

Refusing the Vaccine for Medical Reasons

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prevents employers from requiring certain medical tests or inquiring about the medical conditions of their employees, but the EEOC found that requiring a vaccine (or asking for proof of vaccination) does not violate this provision. If you have medical reasons for not getting vaccinated you may have to submit documentation that demonstrates how your condition or disability prevents you from getting it, but this should be sufficient to meet the exemption rule.

While this can help you keep your job, your employer still has the right to control the safety of their workplace and must make reasonable accommodations for your vaccine exemption. This could be asking you to remain masked while at work, to observe social distancing, working remotely, or to be reassigned to a new role. If you have requested a medical exemption from your employer but have found them unwilling to accommodate you, call us today. If you have a legitimate exemption, you have every right to remain at your job regardless of your vaccination status and your employer must find ways to adjust for this.

Refusing the Vaccine for Religious Reasons

Many Americans object to the vaccine on firmly held religious grounds. If you’re seeking religious accommodation for not getting COVID vaccination, you may also need to provide supporting documentation or an explanation of why you see a conflict with your beliefs and getting the vaccine. Under EEOC guidance, your employer can handle these requests on a case-by-case basis, and your employer must make reasonable accommodations for those with sincerely held religious beliefs if it doesn’t subject them to an “undue burden.” These rights are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which “prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.”

Requirement in High-Risk Industries

Special considerations should be taken into account for those in “high-risk” industries where workers are at a greater risk of exposure to the virus. These could include jobs in healthcare or laboratories that already have increased safety protocols in place such as requiring workers to get an annual flu shot but can also reach other jobs such as food production plants, healthcare delivery or support, or medical transport. The same laws govern these industries as others, but employers are more likely to enforce them here than they would be at other low-risk places where they may only encourage vaccinations instead of requiring them.

These high-risk jobs are also complicated because it can be hard for employers to make reasonable accommodations for their employees—but that does not mean that you shouldn’t exercise your constitutional rights to refuse the vaccine. These cases can be especially tough and you may need an experienced attorney on your side to ensure your voice is heard.

Legal Advocacy You Can Trust

If your job is initiating an employer COVID vaccination requirement, know that you have options in front of you and that your rights deserve to be protected. Hopefully, your employer will respect your requests, but if they don’t, you may need an employment law attorney to advocate on your behalf. If you’re in the Wilson, North Carolina area, contact us today at Lusby & Brooks, P.A. to speak with an attorney who understands and respects your beliefs.