Attorney: Employers likely able to require COVID-19 vaccine

As coronavirus vaccine candidates make their way closer to possible emergency use authorization by U.S. regulators, many are wondering if employers can require employees to get the vaccine. A D.C.-area employment attorney and existing Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance point to the answer being yes.

Scott Mirsky, an employment lawyer with the law firm Paley Rothman, says because COVID-19 poses a direct threat to others in the workplace, an employer can likely require it once use is widespread.

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"The law does say that you can require employees to be vaccinated for certain situations," Mirsky said.

Two exemptions exist, Mirsky says, for those with a medical condition which a vaccine would impair and for those which getting the vaccine would violate a sincerely held religious belief.

Mirsky tells FOX 5 employers may also be able to fire an employee who does not meet those exemptions and refuses to take a vaccine.

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The EEOC has not updated its guidance to employers specifically to reference a COVID-19 vaccine, but in previous guidance has said employers could require vaccines during a flu pandemic.

It refers to flu pandemics and COVID-19 as situations that rise to a direct threat-level to others in the workplace.

"Of course companies are going to have to decide if they do make it mandatory how they're going to police that and how they're going to handle people who don't want to take the vaccine. Are they going to terminate? Are they going to accommodate?" Mirsky said.

Mirsky says some employers may choose to encourage, but not require a coronavirus vaccine.

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