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CAN EMPLOYERS MANDATE COVID-19 VACCINES?

Can An Employer Force Me To Get Covid Vaccine?The ability for an employer to mandate employees taking a COVID-19 vaccine, is limited by whether or not the employees are at will and/or unionized.

An employer can mandate nonunion at will employees get a COVID-19 vaccine, once it becomes readily available to the general public. On December 16, 2020, the EEOC updated its technical assistance guidance and confirmed that employers may mandate that employees receive a COVID-19 vaccine as long as the employer makes appropriate religious and medical exemptions. This is in line with how government agencies treated past pandemics, H1N1 Flu and in line with OSHA’s General Duty clause which requires employers to furnish each employee with a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to the employee.

Both the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act and the National Labor Relations Act may prohibit an employer from unilaterally implementing a mandatory vaccination policy for unionized employees, without first negotiating the policy and its impact with the union. While employers may have arguments that vaccinations are not a mandatory subject of bargaining and therefore not required to be negotiated with the union, the potential litigation associated with the filing of an unfair labor practice charge by the union must be considered when making a determination as whether or not to have a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy.

While there are positives and negatives to having a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy, the same can be said for having an optional policy. Each employer should evaluate its work force and work environment and determine what would be the best course of action to take. Simply put, just because an employer may have the right to mandate COVID-19 vaccines does not mean that it is the best choice to make, especially considering that early polling suggests there is deep skepticism within the population indicting that if offered the vaccine many individuals have suggested that they will refuse it.

There is no one size fits all approach that can be used when determining whether an employer should mandate COVID-19 vaccines. Each industry and employer has unique circumstances that need to be considered and evaluated. Consult with one of Hourigan, Kluger and Quinn’s experienced labor and employment law attorneys to ensure that your workplace best addresses this complex issue.

If you need to speak to an attorney, call the team at Hourigan, Kluger & Quinn at 570-287-3000.

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