The recent announcement of the FDA fully approving Pfizer vaccines may have implications involving workplace vaccine mandates. For example, according to a Fisher Phillips survey, 10% of employers said they were hesitant to impose vaccine mandates. However, this hesitancy would cease after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fully approved a vaccine. Presently, now that the FDA has approved one of the three current vaccines, employers might lean more towards vaccine mandates. Previously, earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released updated vaccination and mask guidance.

Previous Legal Guidance on Workplace Vaccine Mandates

Significantly, over the past year, multiple pieces of guidance and court rulings have verified the legality of workplace vaccine mandates. For example:

  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated guidance to state that employers could require COVID-19 vaccinations. In short, requiring COVID-19 vaccines does not violate most federal anti-discrimination laws.
  • Multiple courts have upheld vaccine mandates when ruling on lawsuits filed by workers refusing to get a vaccine. For instance, 117 hospital workers sued their hospital to block a mandatory vaccination policy. The plaintiffs’ argument stemmed from the fact that the FDA did not fully approve the vaccines. At that point in time, the vaccines were “emergency use approved.” A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit.
  • On July 6, a Department of Justice (DOJ) memo stated that “emergency use” status does not prohibit requiring vaccines.

Creating a Workplace Vaccination Policy

In light of the recent FDA announcement, some employers might be ready to create workplace vaccine mandates. However, there are several issues that employers should consider to stay compliant with various federal, state, and local employment laws. The following are best practices to follow when planning and building your workplace vaccination policy:

  • Include important accommodation information. The policy should include information on how an employee can request an accommodation not to get vaccinated.
  • Designate a trained individual to review exemption requests.
  • Apply the policy consistently. Employers should generally apply exemptions to all similarly situated employees equally.
  • Consult with counsel or local labor offices to learn any applicable laws within your jurisdiction.

 Controlling COVID-19 in the Workplace

At this time, even if an employer institutes vaccine mandates, they have a responsibility to keep workers safe from hazards. To assist employers, Personnel Concepts has developed an online, interactive COVID-19 Prevention Training Program for Employees. Overall, it helps employees understand their roles and responsibilities in keeping themselves and others safe and healthy during the pandemic.