Coronavirus Updates

Can your employer require a COVID-19 vaccine?

West Virginia

A pensioner receives a shot of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine at the newly-opened mass vaccination center in Tokyo Monay, May 24, 2021. Japan opened mass-vaccination sites in two of the country’s biggest metropolitan areas, Tokyo and Osaka, with the goal of administering the shots to up to 15,000 elderly people a day. (Carl Carl Court/Pool Photo via AP)

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — People throughout the region are heading back to work in an office for the first time since the pandemic shut many businesses down.

However, many of those returning are still concerned about the spread of COVID-19 and whether an employer can require employees to get vaccinated.

“If an employer feels that the safety of all their employees is enhanced by everyone getting a vaccine, they can do that,” said Attorney Mark Atkinson.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has released new guidelines for employers.

Yet there is still confusion. In West Virginia, a lawsuit was filed in Greenbrier County last week regarding the act of requiring a vaccine that does not have full approval by the FDA.

“Well, this law in 2004 says people don’t have to take the vaccine if it’s under emergency use…and this one was under emergency use. So therefore we don’t have to take this and employers can’t force us to take it,” said Atkinson.

Under the new EEOC guidelines…

“The employer has to show that the vaccination requirement because the unvaccinated person, that particular individual, would pose what the law calls a direct threat,” said Kerry Leibig, a Senior Attorney Advisor for the EEOC.

Employers can also make other arrangements for those not vaccinated, such as working in an isolated office or requiring the use of a mask.

But there are some exceptions that would excuse an employee from a workplace vaccine requirement. These include a disability, religious belief, or pregnancy.

“The Americans with Disabilities Act and Title Seven have a rule that says if an employee cannot meet a job standard because of a disability the employer has to consider modifying that rule,” said Leibig.

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