With the national vaccination rate at around 51% (fully-vaccinated) and the Delta variant wreaking havoc on our return to work plans, many clients are exploring mandatory vaccination policies. While a minority of private companies have adopted such policies (see the latest list here), some localities are taking more aggressive measures. All LA County workers must be vaccinated by October 1st. Effective September 30th, private “high-risk” businesses in Denver must require employee vaccinations. New York City mandated employee vaccinations for workers at indoor restaurants, gyms and entertainment centers by August 16th. LA City Council proposed a similar measure that has not yet been adopted. While the momentum builds toward mandatory vaccination policies, currently many more businesses have developed policies that encourage vaccination by imposing inconvenient testing requirements on the unvaccinated. For example, many private companies, as well as several California cities, have imposed weekly Covid-19 testing for unvaccinated workers.
Companies considering a mandatory vaccination policy should remember the following:
- Employers may need to provide limited accommodations for both applicants and employees with disabilities and sincerely-held religious beliefs. Read more about accommodations in this Fox Client Alert.
- Some state and city laws prevent implementation of a mandatory vaccination policy. For example, an Executive Order by Texas Governor Greg Abbott prohibits mask and vaccine mandates.
- California requires paid time off for employees to receive a vaccination. Notably, California also requires businesses to compensate employees for time spent doing mandatory Covid-19 testing, as well as the cost of the test.
- Employers may provide incentives to encourage employees to get vaccinated, but the incentives cannot be coercive. Any additional compensation must be factored into the regular rate for overtime and meal premium purposes during that workweek.