Will Employers Mandate Vaccinations?

Posted by Kenneth N. Winkler on

An employer’s right to impose mandate vaccinations is drawing increased attention and interest in the United States as the number of Delta variant cases rise.    

The majority of employers have been reluctant to impose mandatory vaccination policies and have instead opted to highly encourage vaccinations. But as  the number of positive COVID cases continues  to rise, a growing number of employers are requiring their employees to be fully vaccinated  Some notable companies to impose some form of mandatory vaccinations include Google, Lyft, Goldman Sachs, Netflix and the Walt Disney Company. 

Recent headlines also show the NFL is taking vaccination for the 2021 season seriously, which has resulted in the re-assignment and release of some coaches who were opposed to vaccination.

Vaccine Requirements: The NFL’s Policy
The NFL requires all Tier 1 staff, including coaches, front-office executives, equipment managers and scouts, to be vaccinated unless they have a religious or medical exemption recognized by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Without Tier 1 status, coaches are prohibited from being on the field, in meeting rooms and having direct interactions with players.

Although players are not required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, those not vaccinated will be subject to strict protocols during training camp and throughout the season that will not apply to vaccinated players.

Two NFL coaches have already been impacted for refusing COVID vaccination. The Minnesota Vikings reassigned its offensive line coach, Rick Dennison, for refusing to be vaccinated without an exemption to the NFL’s protocols. ESPN has also reported that New England Patriots co-offensive line coach, Cole Popovich, won’t be with his team in 2021 due to COVID-19 vaccine and NFL guidelines, according to league sources. 

Employers Should Monitor Developments
Each employer must decide for itself how it handles vaccinations. So far, the majority of employers have strongly encouraged vaccination rather than requiring their employees to be vaccinated. 

However, if the Delta variant continues its rapid spread, it is likely that more employers in various industries will re-evaluate their vaccination policies. There is reasonable concern that the longer the Delta variant circulates, the likelihood that mutations will expose employees to greater danger, especially unvaccinated employees.  

As discussed in a prior Blog, the EEOC has stated that private employers may legally mandate vaccination, provided they recognize religious and medical exemptions. Although the EEOC has given the green light, employers considering a mandatory vaccination policy should continue to monitor state law developments and consult with legal counsel before implementing a mandatory vaccination policy.

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