Jan 11 2021
As our world continues to face this unprecedented health crisis and with the FDA’s recent approval of a vaccine, many Connecticut employees are wondering whether their employers can require them to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
1. Can my employer require me to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Answer: Yes, but there are exceptions.
Your employer can ask you whether you have been vaccinated because the vaccination itself is not a “medical examination” under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Your employer cannot ask you pre-vaccination medical screening questions or questions related to your genetic information. Examples of these prohibited inquiries include, “Do you have a medical condition that may make it difficult for you to receive the vaccine?” “Do you have a medical condition that may cause a side effect or reaction to the vaccine?” or “What is your family history of X.”
If your employer or a contractor on the employer’s behalf asks you questions that are disability related or likely to require disclosure of genetic information, the questions must be job-related, consistent with business necessity, or justified by a direct threat to you, employees, or the public.
If your employer has a voluntary vaccination policy and you “opt in” to receive the vaccine, then you are also “opting in” to answer pre-screening questions.
2. Vaccinations are against my religion. Can I challenge my employer’s mandatory vaccination policy?
Answer: Yes. An employer with a mandatory vaccination policy must accommodate an employee’s sincerely held religious belief. Remember, though, a sincerely held but non-religious opposition to a vaccine is not legally sufficient. If your religious beliefs conflict with a mandatory vaccination policy, tell your employer and ask for a reasonable accommodation. Your employer must provide the accommodation unless doing so would result in an undue hardship to their business.
3. I have a medical condition or disability that prevents me from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Can I challenge my employer’s mandatory vaccination policy?
Answer: Yes. An employer must reasonably accommodate disabled employees, including those with disabilities that could prevent an employee from receiving the vaccine. If you have a disability that prevents you from receiving the vaccine, you should tell your employer. You should seek a reasonable accommodation for your disability which would exempt you from adhering to the employer’s vaccination policy, while still allowing your employer to do what it can to keep its workplace safe. Such accommodations might include permission for you to work from home, work in a more isolated place in the workplace or use of enhanced PPE. Employers may deny a disability related accommodation when there is no available alternative that would alleviate the direct threat posed by an unvaccinated employee. A direct threat is one that poses a significant risk of substantial harm that cannot be eliminated or reduced by a reasonable accommodation.
4. Can my employer require some employees to get the vaccine but not others?
Answer: Employers policies on vaccinations must be job-related, essential, and applied non-discriminatorily. So employers cannot require the vaccine, for example, only for employees over a certain age or only for employees with certain medical conditions.
5. What if my employer requires me to get the COVID-19 vaccine and I suffer a reaction?
Answer: If the mandated vaccine causes you harm, you may have a worker’s compensation claim against your employer. Be sure to make your employer aware of the reaction immediately and request necessary medical treatment.
For more information about COVID-19 and vaccinations in the workplace, please refer to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission here: https://www.eeoc.gov/wysk/what-you-should-know-about-covid-19-and-ada-rehabilitation-act-and-other-eeo-laws