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The rights of employees, employers surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations

Employers and employees are facing a critical issue. How does a place of business bring people back to the workplace when some are vaccinated and others are not?

News Channel 3’s Dani Romero has more on what you need to know. 

Ryan Lara is from Berkshire Hathaway Homeservices in Palm Desert. His office never closed during the pandemic but now that vaccines are available he’s seen more people returning to work. 

“Office traffic has definitely up ticked a lot of people are coming in," said Lara. "They feel more comfortable coming in but we’re still asking everyone to wear a mask and to social distance.” 

Lara said there hasn’t been much talk about what the next steps could look once everyone is  back. 

"We haven't really discussed the implementation of requirement of the vaccine or anything like that.” 

But its a question many are curious about.  We followed up with Karen Sloat, a local attorney, who specializes in labor and  employment law. 

We asked: Can my employer legally ask me if I have had a COVID-19 vaccine?

“Technically legally, they cannot because it is a medical issue and it is private to the employee," said Sloat.

Sloat explains there are consequences to asking that question.

“The EEOC and the DFEH have both said that an employer can ask," said Sloat. "However, what they don't say is that if the employer asks and the employee has a medical reason and says, no, I didn't because they have a disability for example, the employer can have liability.” 

Now, can my employer require me to get the COVID-19 vaccine? 

“No," said Sloat. "The employer can strongly recommend the vaccine.” 

Employers can make reasonable accommodations for religious and medical reasons. Sloat recommends that employers not ask employees about COVID-19 vaccinations but instead make a company announcement.

“The best is to do a blanket announcement to all the employees," said Sloat. "If you're willing, please let us know. if you have had the vaccine. If the employee expresses hesitation, the employer should determine whether that employee has a medical reason or a religious reason for not getting the vaccine.” 

It is important to note that some believe the vaccines cannot be made mandatory until the FDA gives its final approval to the vaccines. All the vaccines are currently authorized under Emergency Use Authorization.

Under the ADA, an employer can have a workplace policy that includes "a requirement that an individual shall not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of individuals in the workplace."

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Dani Romero

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