CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As coronavirus vaccines become more widely available over the next few months, some businesses may decide to bring employees back to the office after working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of those guidelines, some employers may ask their employees to be tested for the virus or get vaccinated before returning.
Can your employer make you take the COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes. In general, at-will employees can be mandated to get the COVID-19 vaccine by their employer in order to work at their business. However, there are exceptions, according to the sources used below.
WHAT WE FOUND:
We went to two sources: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, and Kenny Colbert, the president and CEO of The Employers Association.
The Employers Association is a Charlotte office that provides Human Resources guidance to businesses.
"This has been a popular topic is the vaccine," Colbert said.
He noted his office has received some 1,000 calls and emails from companies with questions surrounding COVID-19 over the past eight months.
"It's a very popular question and the answer is generally speaking, yes," Colbert said as he said a business could legally make having a vaccine as a condition of employment.
But there are some workers who could be in the clear with a waiver if a company mandates the vaccine.
"There may be some people with objections to the vaccine because of religious reasons or either medical reasons," Colbert explained.
A company wouldn't be allowed to break title seven of the Civil Rights law, Colbert noted.
The EEOC put out guidance on the issue on Wednesday.
It said an employer mandating a vaccine does not violate federal law and if a worker cannot be vaccinated due to a religious or health reason, "and there is no reasonable accommodation possible, then it would be lawful for the employer to exclude the employee from the workplace."
That employer would not be able to, "automatically terminate the worker. Employers will need to determine if any other rights apply under the EEO laws or other federal, state, and local authorities," according to the EEOC.
On Tuesday, The Employers Association did a survey of 500 North Carolina businesses, Colbert said. Five percent of them said they would force the vaccine on workers, 45% said they were undecided, and 50% said they would not require workers to get the vaccine.
"This could turn into a big employee relations issue for companies even though it would not necessarily be a legal issue," Colbert concluded.
He said several presidents and CEOs of companies have told him they will strongly encourage getting the vaccine to employees and will roll up their own sleeves to show confidence in the vaccine.