Federal mandate for COVID vaccine: Guidelines and exceptions for individuals who aren’t vaccinated

COVID vaccine mandate: New rules, exceptions, details for people who aren't vaccinated

Your employer can quickly legally terminate your employment should you refuse the vaccine or common COVID-19 testing.

Sarah Tew/CNET

For essentially the most up-to-date information and details about the coronavirus pandemic, go to the WHO and CDC web sites.

The White Home remains to be engaged on the ultimate selections for the Occupational Security and Well being Administration’s employer vaccine rule. As soon as it is authorised, corporations using 100 or extra individuals might want to require their staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine or get examined for the lethal illness a minimum of as soon as weekly, as a part of a new vaccination mandate issued by President Joe Biden in September. The requirement is designed to curb the surge in coronavirus circumstances, hospitalizations and deaths attributable to the delta variant.

The Biden administration hopes to sway tens of hundreds of thousands of individuals into getting vaccinated. Unvaccinated persons are 10 instances extra doubtless than vaccinated individuals to be hospitalized and 11 instances extra more likely to die from the coronavirus, in keeping with the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention

“We will shield vaccinated staff from unvaccinated co-workers,” Biden mentioned throughout a White Home briefing after he introduced the mandate. Breakthrough COVID circumstances, which happen when vaccinated individuals contract the illness, are far much less lethal than circumstances in unvaccinated sufferers however can nonetheless produce long-term results, together with “lengthy COVID.”

The push to require vaccinations has prompted a backlash. Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has banned any employer from requiring a COVID-19 vaccine. “The COVID-19 vaccine is protected, efficient, and our greatest protection in opposition to the virus,” he posted on Twitter, “however ought to all the time stay voluntary and by no means pressured.”

It is nonetheless unclear when precisely the Division of Labor will challenge the mandate, however Biden tweeted it will be “quickly.” Here is what that you must know concerning the COVID-19 mandate for corporations. Additionally, this is the newest on booster photographs for Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.

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The federal government requires companies to mandate the vaccine

Even before Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, US employers could require their employees to be vaccinated during pandemics, under federal law.

OSHA will soon issue new requirements for all companies with 100 or more employees to ensure they are either fully vaccinated or produce negative test results at least once a week, Biden said. The rule could give employers the option of making unvaccinated employees pay for the weekly testing, Bloomberg Law reported. OSHA has sent its vaccine rule to the White House for final review.

Because it’s federally mandated, the Department of Labor will require employers to give workers paid time off to get vaccinated. This includes time to get the shot and sick time to recover from any side effects.

Americans with Disabilities Act excuses some people from mandatory vaccination

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to workers with medical conditions that would make them unable to get a vaccine. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recognizes long COVID as a disability under the ADA

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, these civil rights protections apply — even during emergencies — and can’t be waived.

Still, the CDC found that some long COVID patients say their symptoms improved after receiving the vaccination. The agency says more studies are needed to determine how the vaccine affects post-COVID conditions.

Does the Civil Rights Act apply to people with religious beliefs opposing vaccines?

At this time, it’s unclear whether people will be able to decline the COVID vaccine because of their religious beliefs. Even within the clergy, some disagreement appears to have surfaced. For instance, Pope Francis is encouraging Catholics to get vaccinated, saying the Vatican approves of the various vaccines. Yet Timothy Broglio, military archbishop, says Catholic troops can refuse the COVID-19 vaccine (PDF) if receiving it would violate their conscience.

New York has been back and forth on religious vaccine exemptions. Health care workers filed a lawsuit against the mandate, saying it violates their First Amendment rights and the Civil Rights Act. On Tuesday, a judge ruled that those health care workers can seek religious exemption requests from a statewide COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, said she’d fight the judge’s decision, citing the public health crisis that COVID poses to New York state residents.

Three syringes

Some employers might impose fines on employees who choose not to get vaccinated.

Sarah Tew/CNET

What happens if you object to receiving a vaccine when your employer requires it?

Just because you have a valid medical disability or theological objection to receiving a coronavirus vaccine doesn’t mean your employer has to let you continue working under the same conditions you’ve been used to. Companies are required to make “reasonable accommodations” if an employee objects to receiving a vaccine for valid reasons. Such accommodations could include allowing the employee to work remotely or take a leave of absence. The employee could also show a negative COVID-19 test once a week, per the president’s mandate.

If you don’t have a medical condition per the ADA or religious reason for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine, your employer has the right to terminate your employment. Note that you likely won’t be able to claim unemployment benefits if that happens because your employer’s reasoning for firing you would be “for cause” that’s tied to complying with company policy.

Some companies are also considering imposing fines on unvaccinated workers refusing to get the shot. This could include raising health care costs, withholding raises and restricting access to workplace amenities. For instance, the NBA says it won’t pay unvaccinated players who miss games.

A 1905 Supreme Court case allows employers to require vaccines

There are precedents for large-scale vaccination requirements in US law. In 1901, a deadly smallpox outbreak in New England prompted local governments to order mandatory vaccinations for everyone in the area. Some residents, however, objected, and one took it all the way to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decided in Jacobson v. Massachusetts that the government may impose “reasonable regulations,” such as a vaccine requirement during pandemics, for the purpose of protecting the “safety of the general public.” 

The court case forms the basis of guidance issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which makes it clear that employers may make similar demands of their workers.

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How likely is your employer to require a COVID-19 vaccine?

If your company employs 100 or more workers, they’re legally required to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine or subject you to regular testing. Smaller companies can also require workers to get vaccinated, although it’s not considered a federal mandate. Here’s more about who’s required to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

CNET reached out to the Department of Labor for comment but didn’t immediately get a response.

For more information, here’s the latest on the Moderna COVID-19 booster shot and who’s eligible for the Pfizer booster vaccine right now. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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