covid-19 vaccine

Can an Employer Require its Employees to Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine?

As the coronavirus vaccine continues to become more widely available, many employers are hoping to get back to a safe, in-person work environment. To do this, many are hoping and encouraging their employees to get the vaccine. But do they have the right to require them to get it?

To put it simply, “yes.” Illinois is an employment “at-will” state. This means that employees can quit their job and employers can terminate an employee at any time and for any reason…or no reason at all. As a result of at-will employment, neither employees nor the employer can be held legally accountable for ending the employment.

Since at-will employment states can terminate an employee at any time and for any reason (other than discrimination), they can also require their employees to be vaccinated – and can fire them if they fail to do so. Employees who are terminated for failing to be vaccinated will have no legal recourse under the law. 

What About the Americans with Disabilities Act?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are prohibited from conducting certain types of medical exams so that they do not base their actions or decisions upon someone’s impairment. However, requiring the COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t require the employer to conduct any type of medical exam and therefore does not violate the ADA. 

However, employees who have a medical reason as to why they cannot be vaccinated are likely exempt from mandated vaccinations. The same likely goes for those whose religious beliefs don’t allow them to receive the vaccine. This is because, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, religious beliefs are protected. 

When an employee requests an exemption, the employer may try to find another reasonable accommodation to allow the employee to keep his or her job without having to be vaccinated. Much of this depends upon the type of job and the physical closeness of employees to each other and to customers since the employer also has a duty to keep its employees and customers safe.

Reasonable accommodations may include things like working remotely or separately from other employees, and/or using PPE. Employers must allow for a reasonable accommodation (in lieu of terminating the employee) so long as doing so wouldn’t be unduly burdensome.

Compensation for Time Off

One important thing for employers to bear in mind is that if they require their employees to get vaccinated, they are also obligated under federal law to compensate them for their time taken off to receive it. If an employer mandates its employees to be vaccinated but fails to compensate them for the time they take off to get it, the employer may receive hefty penalties. 

The Deerfield Employment Law Attorneys at ST Legal Group Can Help

When you have been wrongfully treated in the workplace, you may not know how to assert your rights. That’s where the Deerfield employment law attorneys at ST Legal Group can help. We understand what’s at stake and are here to ensure that your rights are upheld. To learn more, or to schedule a consultation, contact us today!