Can your employer require a COVID-19 vaccine?

As more COVID-19 vaccines become available and more people become eligible, can employers require workers to get their shots before returning to work?

Vaccine eligibility is now for people 55 and up in Arizona.

"I wanted to see my children again."

"We want concerts, we want to be eating outside with friends," said Jeanette Thul, who received the vaccine. 

And while many are eager to get the shot, not everyone is rolling up their sleeves.

What happens if your boss wants to require vaccination? Can they? And can they fire you if you don't?

"Generally, the answer is yes, and there's exceptions," said Cynthia Sass, an employment lawyer.

Arizona is an at-will employment state. However..

"If an employee can't get the vaccine for health reasons, or because they have a disability or there's some religious reason why they can't get the vaccine, then the employer has to engage in what is called the interactive process to see if there's a reasonable alternative to that," explained Sass.

Can they work remotely or away from other employees? Will they wear a mask?

Sass says, "But there are some situations where it may be required, like in health care or something like that, that it may be more safety sensitive than others."

A survey of nearly 2,000 employers and representatives found that less than 1% have mandated shots for employees. 6% plan to, once they have FDA approval, beyond emergency use authorization. 3% plan to require it for certain employees.

43% have not decided against mandating the vaccine, while 48% would not require them.

More than half responding fear resistance from employees not in a protected category. The impact on morale and legal liability for adverse reactions.

"There's a lot of moving parts and I don't think there's really a definitive answer to all these issues," said Sass. "It's going to be developing in the law, what's going to happen in the future."

Continuing coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic:

Parks, pools, sports complexes can reopen, says Phoenix City Council

Public pools, parks and sports complexes can reopen, said the Phoenix City Council in a unanimous vote on March 16. They, along with doctors, agree COVID-19 cases are trending downward enough to allow the reopenings.

Great Hearts Academy shows COVID-19 protocols allow for safe in-person learning

Great Hearts Academy has been setting the standard of in-person learning during the pandemic with several safety practices put in place.

Arizona reports 21 coronavirus deaths, sees trend of fewer cases

The latest figures increased the state’s pandemic totals to 16,574 deaths and 833,678 confirmed cases as related hospitalizations declined to 473 as of Monday, down from the Jan. 11 pandemic high of 5,082.

In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Monitor your health daily

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