GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As the nation inches closer to a coronavirus vaccine, many businesses are wondering if they can mandate its employees to get vaccinated.
The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce has gotten this question quite a few times already, which is why they’re calling on the experts to help get the answer.
“There’s a lot of legal concerns you have to wade through when it comes to mandating folks, especially when it comes to an injection into their body,” Andy Johnston, the chamber’s vice president of government and corporate affairs, said.
Legal experts across the state have already begun to weigh in on the matter.
“Employers have quite a lot of authority in requiring something like a vaccination for their employees,” Lance Gable, an associate law professor at Wayne State, said. “It’s especially true if the vaccine is likely to create a safe and healthy work environment.”
Gable said we often see vaccinate mandates for those working in health care, but other industries have also set such requirements when it comes to getting vaccinations like the flu shot.
In such cases, there are exemptions spelled out by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
“Employers have to allow for exceptions if people have either a disability, which would be covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or if someone has a strongly-held religious objection, (then) there are some other civil rights protections that allow them to get an exemption from a vaccine requirement on that basis,” Gable said.
Gable said it’s yet to be said whether these same exemptions will apply to the COVID-19 vaccine, but it’s a matter many hope the EEOC will clarify before the vaccine is made available.
Employment attorney Steve Palazzolo, with Warner Norcross + Judd LLP, has also been fielding questions about whether companies can require employees to take COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment.
Palazzolo posted a video Tuesday explaining the legalities of where things stand on the matter, which can be found on the law firm’s website.