Can employers require staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine? Local attorney weighs in

Local News

As more people keep getting vaccinated, questions are coming up as to whether employers can require their staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The simple answer is, yes, companies can require employees to get the vaccine.

The only exemption to that requirement would be for religious reasons or for a person with a disability that prevents them from getting it.

Right now, the three vaccines are only authorized for emergency use, but even with that, employers can still require it — much like they can and do require other vaccines such as the flu shot.

Because they’re only authorized for emergency use, that may play a factor in whether companies are requiring it yet.

“Nearly every employer that I know of has taken that into account to not require it yet, mainly because it’s not widely available yet,” said Mikkie Schiltz, attorney for Lane & Waterman in Davenport. “In two or three months, things might change. Even, for example, in those essential businesses that are already getting authorized for use of the vaccine, most employers have not yet required it.”

Schiltz adds, in the meantime, if companies aren’t requiring it, they can strongly encourage people to get the vaccine by offering employees some sort of reward.

It could be as easy as offering them paid time off to go and get the shot or — if possible — bringing it to work so people can do it right there at the office.

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