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Why can your employer require you to get a COVID vaccine?

Experts say most employers will encourage rather than require

ATLANTA — ATLANTA – Now that a COVID-19 vaccine is available to the public, it’s possible that your employer may require you to get one.

In most cases, your boss can require you to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

“The general answer is yes, employers can require it,” Dr. Fazal Khan, Professor at the University of Georgia School of Law stated.

Federal and state laws have quite a bit to say on the topic, including the situations where you may be exempt.

First, there are the jobs where you’re more likely to encounter a boss requiring you to face a needle.

“If you work in a hospital setting, nursing home, long term care setting, that seems absolutely essential to get employees vaccinated,” explained Dr. Khan.

RELATED: Atlanta hospitals prepare for first dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine

If an employer decides to require a vaccine, an employee can legally opt out if they have a valid medical excuse.

“So long as it doesn’t create an undue burden on the employer,” said Khan.

Sincerely held religious beliefs are another exemption.

“You have to make a reasonable attempt at accommodation,” said Khan. “If you’re in an office environment where you can do the job remotely, that would be a reasonable accommodation.”

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In the past, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission has recommended encouraging employees outside of the healthcare field to get the flu vaccine rather than requiring it.

There’s always a risk an employee could have a bad reaction.

“There’s potential for liability and a worker’s comp claim,” said Khan. “I imagine that employers would encourage you to get the vaccine.”

A recent Pew Research survey finds 49% of U.S. adults have concerns about the vaccine. Employers have that to consider as they continue to navigate this pandemic.

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