Can an employer require an employee to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Posted at 2:33 PM, Apr 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-01 14:53:28-04

With everything slowly returning to a new normal because of the COVID-19 vaccine rolling out across south Florida, new questions are being raised in the workplace. Can an employer require an employee to get the vaccine?

“The short answer to that question is, under appropriate circumstances, employers can mandate employee to get the vaccine,” said labor and employment attorney Joe Santoro at Gunster Law Firm.

Joe said employers have the right to require the COVID-9 vaccine.

“The reason for that and the policy reason for that is that there’s a pandemic and there are threats. The direct threat of an employee bringing the virus into the workplace [and] affecting others," he said.

Joe said most employers are incentivizing their employees, instead of mandating.

“In many circumstances there are alternatives that can be put in place to allow the employee to continue to work. For example, some employees can continue to work at home for a period time if they have a problem with it,” he said.

If an employee gets the vaccine and has an ill effect, could it lead to legal repercussions?

“I think the answer to that question is a little bit unknown right now but the employee still has a choice. If the employer mandates that their employees get the vaccine to continue working there, the employee could decide [to not continue to work there],” Joe said.

So the next question is, how can an employee who doesn’t want to get the vaccine, opt out?

“If an employee has a disability and that disability might be aggravated by getting the vaccine then the employee has on basis upon which to challenge the employers decision. The second exception relates to religious objection. If an employee has a sincerely held religious belief that they can’t get the vaccine because it conflicts with their religious beliefs, then the employee can also challenge the employers requirement in that regard,” he said.

Javon Lloyd with CareerSource Broward, a business center for job seekers and employers, said employers they work with haven’t been weighing in on the topic.

“We really haven’t heard too many employers stating whether or whether not they will be requiring their employees to get vaccinated. What we’re hearing from companies is that they really have a need to hire workers,” he said.

There is no state mandate to get vaccinated. It is a personal choice, though the state health department strongly encourages people to get vaccinated as soon as possible.