Workplaces can require employees to get vaccinated, federal agency determines

<p>A federal agency says companies can, in fact, require their employees to get vaccinated</p> (Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)

A federal agency says companies can, in fact, require their employees to get vaccinated

(Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)

A federal agency has finally answered the question of whether companies can require their employees to get vaccinated for Covid-19. The answer was yes.

“The federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19,” the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in an update to its guidelines.

The agency added that there are some exceptions, including if the employee has a disability or a religious belief in conflict with the vaccination.

“In some circumstances, Title VII [of the Civil Rights Act] and the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] require an employer to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who, because of a disability or a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance, do not get vaccinated for COVID-19, unless providing an accommodation would pose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business,” the EEOC continued.

The question of whether corporations can require the shots has been controversial since the start of the vaccination campaign. Just this past Friday, more than 100 Texas health care workers sued their employer, Houston Methodist Hospital, over its requirement that they get vaccinated.

“Methodist Hospital is forcing its employees to be human ‘guinea pigs’ as a condition for continued employment,” the staff members said in their complaint, charging that the hospital “requires the employee to subject themselves to medical experimentation as a prerequisite to feeding their families.”

In fact, all three of the vaccines that have been authorized for use in the United States went through rigorous clinical trials on thousands of subjects before they became available to the public. All three were found to be extremely safe and effective.

But that hasn’t stopped the controversy. In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis has specifically banned “vaccine passports,” outlawing government agencies from issuing proofs of vaccination and barring businesses from checking them as a prerequisite for service.

“It’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply be able to participate in normal society,” Mr DeSantis said.

How that ban will clash with the new federal guidelines remains to be seen.

Experts say the EEOC is somewhat ambiguous about how pushy employers’ vaccine mandates are allowed to be. The agency says companies can provide incentives for employees to get the shot, as long as those incentives are “not so substantial as to be coercive.”

“What is ‘coercive’ is unclear because, just as with anything else, one person's view of what is a coercive incentive is not the same as another person’s,” employment attorney Helen Rella told CBS News.

The federal agency has promised to make further updates.

“The EEOC will continue to clarify and update our COVID-19 technical assistance to ensure that we are providing the public with clear, easy-to-understand and helpful information,” the commission’s chairwoman, Charlotte Burrows, said in a statement.

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