Enforcement V Choice – The Answers Are Here
Your healthcare staff are on the frontline of a workforce exposed to the COVID-19 pandemic. You want to protect them, just as much as you want to protect your patients. Can you force them to have the COVID vaccine?
The CDC is on your side, and – for good reason – healthcare staff should be high priority in receiving the COVID-19 vaccination. But fears of side effects and a lack of knowledge on the makeup of the vaccine are leaving up to 80% of your healthcare staff believing they’ll opt to refuse the vaccination.
As you battle on to provide high-quality care during the biggest vaccination rollout in history, you wonder if forceful measures should be implemented to protect your staff, or if honoring personal choice is the ethical path.
Here are the facts you need to know to protect your healthcare staff and your business.
The Answer Is Clear, but Complicated
Simply put, American law allows employers to insist on their healthcare staff receiving the vaccination. This is construed as a measure to protect healthcare staff, the workplace, and patients. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) concludes that U.S. employers can require healthcare staff to be vaccinated as a condition of employment – a requirement aligned with that of the regular influenza shot, and other protection measures from exposure. But that’s only the headline.
There are two specific exemptions:
- The Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC guidelines state that you cannot dismiss a member of your healthcare staff – or penalize them – for choosing not to be vaccinated based on a disability.
- The Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. You must not enforce a vaccination on an individual employee whose sincere religious beliefs prevents them from wishing to be vaccinated.
If you have employees who fall into either of these exemptions, you can reduce their exposure and patients’ exposure to COVID, by:
- Changing how they work (in alignment with their job description)
- Providing alternative arrangements to accommodate their employment (such as office- or home-based work)
Such actions must not be disciplinary, but to solely protect the workplace from viral risk.
The bottom line: Yes, you can insist on mandating a vaccination for your healthcare staff, taking exemptions into account. Title VII also clearly states that ‘a personal or political opposition to vaccination is not sufficient’.
Why Knowledge and Choice May Be Better Than Enforcement
The laws currently allow an authoritative stance in favor of you as an employer, with the understanding that the COVID vaccination will have a hugely positive impact on the spread of a global-sweeping virus.
However, you must take heed of stripping your staff of choice in an uncertain time. The complications of doing so could become damaging and easily spiral. Many healthcare providers are instead opting to increase knowledge of the vaccine, and highly recommend it to their exposed workforce.
Emergency use authorization has left healthcare employers in uncharted territory. Though you can insist on non-exempt healthcare workers to be vaccinated, doing so will potentially increase your risk of lawsuits against you.
Previous events show that U.S. courts generally side with hospitals in the court where health workers have opposed employer-mandated flu vaccines, if the employer had sufficient exemption policies in place.
The EEOC also insists that you can dismiss employees who refuse to be tested for coronavirus before they return to work. It’s likely that as time passes and more data proves the safety of the Covid vaccine, such enforcement will apply to vaccine mandates too.
However, as it stands, the COVID vaccine has been rolled out at record speed. Earlier vaccines have been developed over years. The COVID vaccine has been compressed into months, with politics further casting doubt on its safety.
Your biggest risk lies within the side effects causing negative consequences to an employee who wished not to have the vaccine but was forced to by their employer. Mandating the vaccine into employment may leave you liable.
Therefore, until further safety evidence has been conducted on the vaccine, and the freedom of an American’s choice of vaccination is less at risk, your safest action legally would be to strongly encourage your healthcare staff to protect themselves the best way they can.
Keep Your Healthcare Staff Topped Up with Supporte
The knowledge on what you can and can’t enforce, as well as understanding your healthcare staff, will help you make a good decision in an already challenging time for healthcare. The key ingredient for your employees is support.
However you choose to provide support, LoyalSource can help alleviate the strain of ensuring your workforce has the right staff and skillset to continue to provide the high-quality care your patients expect, need, and deserve. Contact LoyalSource today to learn more.