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Requiring COVID-19 Vaccinations in the Workplace

Requiring COVID-19 Vaccinations in the Workplace

For nearly a year, employers have been grappling with federal, state, and local rules and guidelines related to the COVID-19 pandemic. As that guidance has changed over time, employers have been forced to adjust to a smaller (or remote) workforce, reduced business hours, and limited customer capacity. Other businesses have closed their doors—some, in the most unfortunate circumstances, permanently.

As vaccinations become more widely available, employers may wonder whether requiring their employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 will allow them to get back to full capacity. But, can employers require employees to get vaccinated before coming to work?

House Bill No. 1488 is currently pending in the Indiana legislature, which would prohibit employers from conditioning employment on vaccination. However, this bill would only apply to emergency-use vaccines which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not fully approved. Further, the employer may not inquire about why a person refuses to be vaccinated if the vaccine only has emergency, and not full, approval from the FDA. If the bill is passed and becomes effective, an employer that violates this law could be held liable for actual and punitive damages, including the costs and attorneys’ fees of any employees who bring a lawsuit against the employer.

Unless and until the General Assembly enacts this (or a similar) law, employers may condition future work on COVID-19 testing or vaccinations if the employer’s policy (which should be written and uniformly enforced) does not otherwise violate existing law. Under current federal law, employers may require employees to obtain vaccinations before entering the premises.

However, some employees may have federally-protected reasons to opt-out of vaccination, such as religious beliefs or certain medical conditions. In those cases, employers may be required to offer reasonable accommodations to employees before considering other action. Reasonable accommodations can take many forms, including working remotely where possible, changing an employee’s shift, or altering responsibilities to reduce exposure. If a reasonable accommodation is not possible, the employer may be able to exclude the employee from the workplace.

The employment law attorneys at McNeelyLaw LLP can help you understand your options and craft a vaccination policy that works for your business. Call us at (317) 825-5110 to learn more.

This McNeelyLaw LLP publication should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion of any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own lawyer on any specific legal questions you may have concerning your situation.

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