The Mandate Debate: COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements In the Workplace

From religious and medical exemptions to politics, there are a number of reasons people are losing their jobs over the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Last week, Washington State University fired its football coach, Nick Rolovich, and four of his assistants for failing to comply with the state’s Covid-19 vaccination mandate.

COVID-19 Mandates and Walkouts

Rolovich was one of the highest-paid public employees in Washington with a salary of $3.1 million, according to reports. Earlier this month, Rolovich applied for a religious exemption but the status of that request was unclear when the firings occurred.

Over the summer, a group of workers at Houston Methodist took the hospital to court due to its COVID vaccination requirement. All 26,000 employees were required to get vaccinated by June 7, 2021. Days later, a judge dismissed the suit that claimed the vaccines were “experimental.” More than 150 employees eventually resigned or were fired after they did not comply.

And roughly 2,000 United employees sought exemptions for religious or medical reasons over the summer. A spokesperson for the airline said that employees fired for not getting vaccinated would be terminated on the grounds of violating a company safety policy, which could make them ineligible for unemployment benefits. At this time, about 593 of its 67,000 employees are facing termination over the mandate.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, it is legal for employers to mandate that employees get vaccinated against COVID-19 with certain exceptions. Here’s a summary of EEOC guidelines for vaccination requirements in the workplace:

  • Federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19(this does not include those who meet exception requirements).
  • Employers are still required to provide accommodations for employees who are exempt from mandatory immunization based on the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and other federal laws.
  • Employers should keep in mind that some individuals or demographic groups may face greater barriers to receiving a COVID-19 vaccination than others, and some employees may be more likely to be negatively impacted by a vaccination requirement.
  • Federal EEO laws do not prevent or limit employers from offering incentives to employees for getting vaccinated as long as the incentives are not coercive.
  • Employers may provide employees and their family members with information to educate them about COVID-19 vaccines and raise awareness about the benefits of vaccination.

Experienced Employment Law Attorney, Mediator, Arbitrator, Investigator, Legal and Media Commentator 

Twice-named a U.S. News Best Lawyer in America for employment and labor law, Angela Reddock-Wright is an employment and labor law attorney, mediator, arbitrator, and certified workplace and Title IX investigator (AWI-CH) in Los Angeles, CA. Known as the “Workplace Guru,” Angela is an influencer and leading authority on employment, workplace/HR, Title IX, hazing, and bullying issues.

Angela is a regular legal and media commentator and analyst and has appeared on such media outlets as Good Morning America, Entertainment Tonight, Law and Crime with Brian Ross, Court TV, CNN, NewsNation, ABC News, CBS News, Fox 11 News, KTLA-5, the Black News Channel, Fox Soul – The Black Report, NPR, KPCC, Airtalk-89.3, KJLH Front Page with Dominique DiPrima, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, Forbes.com, Yahoo! Entertainment, People Magazine, Essence Magazine, the Los Angeles Sentinel, LA Focus, Daily Journal, Our Weekly and the Wave Newspapers.

Angela is a member of the panel of distinguished mediators and arbitrators with Judicate West, a California dispute resolution company. She also owns her own dispute resolution law firm, the Reddock Law Group of Los Angeles, specializing in the mediation, arbitration, and investigation of employment discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and other workplace claims, along with Title IX, sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct conduct cases, along with hazing and bullying cases in K-12 schools, colleges and universities, fraternities and sororities; fire, police and other public safety agencies and departments; and other private and public sector workplaces.

For more information regarding resources for employers, businesses, and employees during this time, connect with her on LinkedIn for new updates, or contact her here. You may also follow her on Instagram.

This communication is not legal advice. It is educational only. For legal advice, consult with an experienced employment law attorney in your state or city.

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