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Can your employer require you to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

With exceptions, experts say it can be mandatory
Can your employer require you to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Posted at 4:48 AM, Jan 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-26 19:05:22-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — In southern Colorado some people have been working from home for almost a year now. The rollout of the coronavirus vaccine is expected to go a long way in getting people back to the office, but can your employer require you to get the vaccine? News5 is getting the legal answers.

Some people aren't going to like this answer, but legally employers can require you to get the coronavirus vaccine. The catch is that requirement can't override employment laws already on the books.

In December, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidance stating employers could encourage or possibly require COVID-19 vaccinations for workers. However, they must comply with current workplace laws. Laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title Seven of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Local attorney and legal expert Stephen Longo says employers need to communicate with their staff and have clear policies.

"The short answer to whether or not your employer can make you get the vaccine is yes. We talked a long time about a year ago about can they make you get a test before you come back to work to see if you are COVID positive or not. It is really the same format," said Longo. "Your employer can make you get the vaccine, but it is as you know riddled with some regulations."

Some exceptions that may get you out of a vaccine requirement would be any medical conditions that might put you at risk, or a sincerely held religious belief that would prevent you from getting the shot. At that point employers have to make reasonable accommodations for you, like allowing you to work from home, or to provide work that isn't dealing with the public.

"I'll put it back on employers. It's their time to really step up for the employees and if they are going to have mandatory vaccines make sure that you have your policy set clearly," said Longo. "Make sure you are following the guidelines. Make sure you are articulating them in a way that people get. Make sure your HR department is ready to have these conversations and answer these questions. That's the biggest thing that's going to avoid litigation and everything else."

Longo says women who are looking to start or add to their family may also have a strong argument against a mandatory vaccine requirement.

"Being pregnant is something that is wholly unique to women and that's something employers are going to have a tough time navigating if they are going to tell female employees who are hoping, or are trying to get pregnant within the next year that they are going to have to get the vaccine. I think they are going to have a real hard time doing that," said Longo.

If you have concerns about a vaccine requirement at your workplace, the best thing you can do is set up a call or meeting with your human resources department to get the tough questions answered.