The authorities said in the guidelines issued this week that employers can demand employees to get a Coronavirus vaccine and fire them from the job if they refuse.
Public health officials see employers as playing a vital role in vaccinating enough people to reach mass immunity and to control the pandemic that has killed more than 300,000 people in America. Widespread COVID-19 vaccinations would restart the economy, keep people from dying and assist a return to normalcy, experts say.
Employers had been waiting for guidelines from the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency that regulates laws against job discrimination, because demanding employees be tested for the COVID-19 taps on complicated medical and privacy issues protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.
The guidelines, issued on Thursday, confirmed what employment lawyers had predicted.
Employers and businesses are strangely positioned to demand a large number of people to get the vaccination, who otherwise would not receive it. But they would do so because their jobs depend on it.
The Americans with Disabilities act restricts employers’ ability to demand medical examinations like blood-pressure screening, breath analyses and blood tests. These are tests, frequently given in a medical setting, that asks for information about an employee’s mental and physical conditions.
The issuing of a Coronavirus vaccine to an employee by an employer does not suit that definition, the commission said.
“If a vaccine is issued to a worker by an employee for protection against COVID-19, the employer is not asking information about an individual’s current health status or disabilities,” it stated, “and thus, it is not a medical examination.”
On its webpage, the commission said that demanding a worker to show proof of having gotten a Coronavirus vaccination would not add up to a disability-related inquiry.
However, employers may need to be cautious about how they deal with the process.