With all of the anxiety around the Covid vaccines, people have wondered if the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 would present legal difficulties for employers who wanted to require their employees to be vaccinated.
But good news, employers! The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in their updated guidance that there's no legal issue. So get those needles ready!
The New York Times explains why having guidance on this question was so critical to the successful deployment of Covid vaccines.
Businesses and employers are uniquely positioned to require large numbers of Americans who otherwise would not receive a vaccination to do so because their employment depends on it.
The disabilities act protects employees from their employer violating their right to medical privacy by obtaining information about their physical or mental health that might lead to employees being discriminated against. That's why your employer isn't allowed to perform medical examinations on you (as much as they might want to).
The commission said employers vaccinating employees does not violate this principle of privacy in the act.
"If a vaccine is administered to an employee by an employer for protection against contracting Covid-19, the employer is not seeking information about an individual's impairments or current health status, and, therefore, it is not a medical examination."
Nor does an employer asking you to show proof of vaccination necessarily violate your disability-related right to privacy, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
"There are many reasons that may explain why an employee has not been vaccinated, which may or may not be disability-related."
Essentially, as long as an employer can argue that a Covid-19 vaccine is "job-related and consistent with business necessity" it can require you to get one.
Which is a pretty low bar.
HR departments be like:
It's really going to be up to businesses to decide how they want to handle this, but it sounds like at least some people will be facing a decision to either be vaccinated or lose their job.
Or at least be excluded from "physically entering the workplace."
If an employee cannot get vaccinated for COVID-19 because of a disability or sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance, and there is no reasonable accommodation possible, then it would be lawful for the employer to exclude the employee from the workplace. This does not mean the employer may automatically terminate the worker. Employers will need to determine if any other rights apply under the EEO laws or other federal, state, and local authorities.
But as we all know, if you're too much of a hassle, companies can always find a way to get rid of you.
Check out section "K" on this page to read all of the latest guidance around the Covid-19 vaccines.