Around 235 million people in the U.S. have had the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Approximately 98 million are fully vaccinated. In California, about 29% of the population has been fully vaccinated. One question keeps appearing from those who haven’t been fully vaccinated or don’t want to get the vaccine. What happens if your employer asks for proof of the COVID-19 vaccination? Is it legal for an employer to require evidence from you?
The short answer is yes. Providing your employer follows Fair Employment and Housing Act rules, you can be required to get the COVID-19 vaccination and prove that you’ve done so. The key is that your employer must follow FEHA rules.
If your employer sets up a COVID-19 clinic, the proof of vaccination is easy for them to acquire. As most people get their vaccination in a pharmacy or COVID-19 clinic, your employer is allowed to ask for proof. However, your employer has to maintain confidentiality and make sure that records are stored in a safe, secure area.
Protections Against a Vaccine Mandate
There are two main reasons to get out of needing to provide proof of a vaccine mandate: religious beliefs and disability.
The first is that your religion does not allow you to get vaccinated. As long as your religious beliefs and practices are against this vaccine, your employer cannot force you. You cannot simply join a religion randomly in order to get around the requirement. It has to be a “sincerely-held” belief or practice. Tread carefully here as many religions have stated that it will be acceptable for followers or believers to get vaccinated. Only a handful of churches have anti-vaccination beliefs, and most do not require their followers to avoid vaccinations.
For example, the Christian Science religion believes that diseases should be treated and prevented through prayer. While its followers are not outright banned from getting vaccinated, some refuse to do so based on the church’s beliefs.
Second, a known disability that requires you to avoid the vaccination is another valid reason. The CDC hasn’t listed any disabilities that qualify for skipping the immunization. It’s only an issue if you’ve had an allergic reaction to ingredients used in the COVID-19 vaccine.
If you have a health issue, such as an allergy to the influenza vaccine, ask your doctor if you should get the shot. People who have allergies to mRNA, PEG, or polysorbate shouldn’t get the vaccination. Others can and should talk to their doctor about the best option for their needs. If you cannot have the vaccination due to an allergic reaction, your employer cannot force you to get the shot.
Typically, undue hardship is another reason. However, the COVID-19 vaccination is free for everyone. You will not be charged for your COVID-19 shot. If money is your concern, be assured there is no charge for this shot.
Why Are You Skipping the COVID-19 Vaccine?
So why are you skipping the vaccine? You’re not covered by religion or disability but still won’t get the vaccine. You’re not alone. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, and that’s keeping people from feeling safe getting the shot. Here are some of the reasons people give for not getting the shot.
The FDA Did Approve the Shots
The three vaccines being offered in the U.S. are safe and FDA-approved. Side effects are possible, but any vaccine has side effects like soreness and swelling at the injection site, a mild fever, and tiredness for a few days. Millions have had the shots, and very few severe reactions have been recorded. Around 3 out of every million people vaccinated have had a severe reaction.
Technology Helped Boost the Development
People worry about the length of time it took for pharmaceutical companies and scientists to develop the vaccine. It was fast, but technology helped speed up the process. Years ago, science didn’t have computers and modern technology when the polio cure came out. Times have changed.
Some Experience More Side Effects Than Others
What if you haven’t gotten the shot because you worry about missing work due to those side effects? Some people have no reaction to the different vaccinations, while others experience flu-like symptoms that can make it hard to go to work.
If you get the shot and have side effects, President Biden announced a tax credit for small businesses of less than 500 employees to use to provide paid time off for employees who get the vaccination. If that’s your concern, ask your employer about this incentive.
It’s Hard to Find Time
If you can’t get to a vaccination clinic during your work hours, look for clinics on weekends, if possible. You don’t drive or have transportation to a clinic. Ask your doctor or local pharmacy to see if someone can come to your home or ask your employer if there will be a clinic at your workplace.
You’ve Already Had the COVID Virus
One other reason that people give is that they’ve already had COVID-19. If that’s the case, there are different mutations of the virus. Having one doesn’t guarantee you from getting the others. However, the vaccination lowers the severity of the symptoms, which makes it easier for your body to fight the virus. Plus, no one knows how long the immunities to COVID-19 last after you’ve had the virus, so the vaccination can help prevent you from contracting it again.
If you don’t have a valid reason for skipping the vaccination, you can be disciplined or penalized by your employer. It’s legal for your employer to do this. That doesn’t mean that all employers will do so, but it’s a risk you take by not getting the shot. You must weigh the decision not to get vaccinated very carefully for that reason.
Steps to Take if You Feel You’re Being Treated Unfairly
You didn’t get the vaccination for one of the valid reasons. Your employer is threatening to fire you. Your co-workers found out and won’t come near you. Is that legal? Your employer cannot fire you or retaliate against you if you feel you’re being discriminated against. If you didn’t get the vaccination, you might be reassigned to another area to protect the safety of customers and co-workers, but you cannot be fired.
What if you learn your employer told your co-workers that you won’t get the vaccine? Your employer is bound by privacy laws and isn’t supposed to tell your co-workers anything without your permission. If that’s happened, it can be a violation of privacy laws. Make sure your supervisor told others and that people didn’t just figure it or overhear you.
What if you have a religious exemption and were fired anyway? You didn’t get the shot due to an allergic reaction, and you’re told you’re about to lose your job. If that’s the situation you’re experiencing, contact an expert in employment law. Shegerian Conniff can help you understand your rights and the next steps to take. We offer free consultations, so there’s no risk to you. Call us today to discuss your situation.