As health care workers and the elderly began receiving the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine this week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released updated guidelines clarifying that employers can require the vaccination when it becomes widely available in most cases.
The EEOC, which enforces employment laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act, said Wednesday that a vaccination does not constitute a "medical examination," which employers are barred from forcing.
Because of this, employers can require workers to get the vaccine, except in specific instances, such as a worker who has a religious belief that prevents them from getting a vaccine.
Employers also must be careful about the way they administer vaccines, because "pre-screening vaccination questions may implicate the ADA’s provision on disability-related inquiries, which are inquiries likely to elicit information about a disability."
In short, employers are allowed to set the terms of a person's employment.
"Your body is sacrosanct from the government but not from employers," Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano told Charlie Gasparino. "Employers have a duty to maintain a safe environment and can engage in behavior intended to ensure the safety of people."
The updated guidance comes as many Americans are still skeptical of the vaccine.
Sixty-three percent of Americans now say they are willing to get the vaccine, up from a low point of 50% in September, according to a Gallup poll released last week.
About half of working Americans, 49%, say that employers should require vaccinations in the workplace, according to a 2020 Eagle Hill Consulting COVID-19 Vaccines and the Workplace Survey conducted by Ipsos earlier this month.
“With COVID-19 vaccines in reach for workers, there indeed is reason to feel hopeful after a crushing year for families, businesses and the economy. But the road ahead will be complicated for employers, as our research indicates,” Melissa Jezior, president and CEO of Eagle Hill Consulting, said in a statement Monday.
“The workforce clearly is split on employer vaccine mandates, so it’s going to be contentious no matter where an employer lands on inoculation requirements.”