EEOC Announces Employers are Allowed to Require Covid-19 Vaccine for Most Employees
Recently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced it is allowing U.S. employers to require all employees that are physically at the office to be vaccinated against Covid-19. There are some limitations. For example, employers must provide reasonable accommodations to employees, who because of disabilities or religious beliefs, will not get vaccinated. These employees may be required to wear a face mask or work at a social distance, etc. While this provides more clarity to businesses, it still does not appear many will require vaccinations. Rather, employers will provide incentives and information about the benefits of the vaccine. Some employers, like Bolthouse Farms, said it would pay $500 to full-time hourly workers who get the Covid-19 vaccine. Others, like Smithfield Foods Inc., are making vaccines available for plant workers but not mandating them at this time.
Marc Freeman, vice president of employment policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is hopeful that this will ease some employee fears about returning to work. Employers have expressed difficulty hiring for open positions. The question of whether a vaccine mandate will impact labor shortage will depend on the amount of employers that require vaccines and how much unvaccinated workers care if they do. Because of the shortage of available workers, it is possible that employers may be hesitant to require vaccinations. However, the requirement could also provide more confidence to potential employees. Ultimately, Adam Ozimek, a labor economist at Upwork Inc., said it best, “the most important impact, for the economy more broadly, would be if employers require vaccines and this helps to get more people vaccinated, because that would help end the pandemic faster.”