As COVID-19 vaccinations continue to roll out and into the arms of Floridians, many are questioning whether an employer can make vaccinations a workplace requirement. The short answer is yes, provided health and religious exemptions are allowed, yet there are many business and legal considerations to factor into a decision like mandating a COVID-19 vaccine.
Vaccine Requirement or Recommendation – Which to Pursue?
Fla. Stat. §381.00315(1)(c)(4) permits mandatory vaccination by the government during a public health emergency, but in terms of workplace requirements, there are other legal requirements to consider.
In late 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance regarding COVID-19 vaccinations. The key takeaway from their recommendations is that if any employer chooses to mandate the vaccine, it must do so while also complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, and other workplace laws.
This means if a vaccine is mandated by an employer, employees could request an exemption. To comply with legal regulations, an employer would then need to provide an accommodation for the employee such as allowing them to work remotely.
There are other considerations when contemplating a vaccine mandate as well, such as if the workforce is part of a union, the type of industry in which the business operates, and their specific employee population and risk factors. Some employers may face more hurdles in trying to issue a mandate rather than simply trying to encourage (or even create incentives for) vaccination.
Still More to Consider
Employers must also consider workers’ compensation laws. Injuries as a result of vaccine side-effects may lead to a workers’ compensation claim. Conversely, if a vaccine is not required, employees may file a negligence claim if they were to contract COVID-19 in the workplace.
Mandating a vaccine is complicated and legally complex, and because the COVID-19 vaccine is still so new, there are still many more questions than answers. If you’re an employer in need of legal perspective and guidance, come talk to us at Silverberg|Brito, PLLC. Our commercial law team will help you understand your rights and responsibilities as a Florida employer.