While public health leaders continue to wrestle with vaccine hesitancy, businesses are wrestling with employee challenges to COVID-19 vaccination mandates. This Saturday marked a win for private employers after a Texas District Court tossed a lawsuit brought by over 100 hospital employees claiming they were subjected unlawfully to a COVID-19 vaccination policy as a condition of continued employment. Although the plaintiffs’ counsel has said they plan to appeal the decision, the order provides helpful precedent for other organizations mulling such vaccination mandates.
Many employers, reflecting on the challenging circumstances created by COVID-19, have temporarily bypassed traditional performance scoring for 2020 in favor of more flexible rating schemes. But as organizations increasingly settle into a new paradigm with expanded remote work, managers and human resources leaders face the challenge of recalibrating expectations for how such work will be managed and evaluated moving forward.
Today, after much anticipation and just in time for the Memorial Day holiday, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released updated guidance on COVID-19 vaccination issues raised under federal equal employment laws. We outline five things you need to know about the new guidance.
Faegre Drinker previously reported on one of the first lawsuits challenging a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. As employers continue to evaluate employee vaccination, another lawsuit has been filed in the Central District of California, California educators for Medical Freedom et al v. The Los Angeles Unified School District et al., 21-cv-02388 (C.D. Cal. filed 3/17/2021).
The California Educators for Medical Freedom, along with seven employees of the Los Angeles Unified School District, are seeking injunctive relief and potential damages due to a vaccine mandate instituted in March of 2021. Plaintiffs were allegedly told that if they were not vaccinated by April of 2021, they could face a “job detriment, up to and including termination from employment.”
As COVID-19 vaccines become more widely accessible, and certain localities relax COVID-19 restrictions, employers hoping to ramp up on-site operations or reduce absenteeism face a new challenge: navigating employee vaccination. Employers are evaluating whether to mandate, strongly suggest or simply remain neutral regarding COVID-19 vaccinations and on-site work.
The considerations surrounding workplace vaccination programs are complex. Business justifications and accommodation issues, potential public relations and employee relations pitfalls, the impact of vaccination on workforce safety procedures, litigation risks on multiple fronts — these are just the beginning. To help piece together this business and regulatory puzzle, we have compiled a list of issues organizations should consider as they set policy and communication plans regarding on-site work and COVID-19 vaccines. We have also identified issues to consider with regard to the practical application of any such policy and the development of related communications to employees or others.
Many workplaces are likely to see a rise in flu activity at the same time as an increased rate of COVID-19 infections. The paramount concern for all employers should be keeping sick workers out of the workplace. Now is the time to get ahead of the questions that are likely to arise. The CDC’s and other guidance will certainly continue to evolve, and it is important to continue to monitor developments and adjust policies accordingly. However, having a plan in place will bode well for employers and employees alike and will provide a solid starting place to incorporate new guidance as it is issued.
For the full alert, visit the Faegre Drinker website.