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Jun 17, 2021
This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.

We’re coming out of the pandemic! This is so great, right? 

It’s not really over, though. With less than 70% of the population vaccinated, it looks like Covid-19 will be around for a while, especially in states with less than 50% vaccinated. (You know who you are.) 

In late May, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provided guidance on whether employers could mandate the vaccine. Their answer: Yes, employers are allowed to mandate the vaccine if they have a business reason to do so — provided that the employer reasonably accommodates those employees who cannot be vaccinated for religious or disability-related reasons.

Examples of business reasons include interactions with the public (retail, restaurants, bars, some professional services, etc.), small children (daycares, schools, camps, etc.), facilities with many people who are not able to socially distance (some manufacturing and food processing plants), and, of course, healthcare facilities. 

The EEOC’s reasoning has already been tested in court. Just last week, a Houston-based hospital won a case against 178 employees who had sued after they were informed they would lose their jobs if they did not get vaccinated. The employees argued that they were being treated like human guinea pigs. The judge in the case tossed their action quickly, finding their arguments “reprehensible” and without merit.

While employers are debating current employees, recruiters should be asking whether incoming ones should be vaccinated, especially if new hires are going to be required to be in an office or working directly with the public. 

Every employer may look at this differently, but trends are emerging that yes, mandating the vaccine may be on the horizon if not already here. Take, for example, Delta, one of the largest employers in the country. The airline has decided that mandating the vaccine is the prudent route for all new employees. As CEO Ed Bastian told CNN, “Any person joining Delta in the future we will mandate to get vaccinated before they can sign up with the company.” 

Therefore, here are some tips if your employer plans to mandate the vaccine for incoming employees:

  • Recruiters may ask for vaccinated status or whether a candidate is willing to be vaccinated prior to beginning work. And yes, you can ask to look at a vaccination record.
  • If a candidate says no, ask if the person needs a reasonable accommodation. You do not need to know their reasons for not being vaccinated other than that they need reasonable accommodation. 
  • Be prepared to share your employer’s reasoning behind mandating the vaccine, which will be important to sway reluctant candidates.

We are going to get out of this pandemic someday. Vaccines are likely our best way to do that, and employers certainly have a role to play.

This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.
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