Will Bay Area Companies Require the Coronavirus Vaccine for Workers?

December 14, 2020

Companies will probably be able to require workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. And fire people who refuse.

As officials prepare to distribute the first precious vials of coronavirus vaccine, Bay Area businesses large and small are weighing whether to require or just encourage workers to get it, when their turn comes. The issue is plagued with uncertainty. Making the vaccine mandatory could create a workplace revolt. So, too, could requiring employees to return to offices among colleagues who have refused protection against the virus.

Legal experts said companies can choose to mandate their workers get a vaccine, but will need to accept that not everyone will take it.

Businesses can require employees to get a flu shot — something the University of California system did this year for everyone physically on campus. But they have to allow for exceptions, according to Domenique Camacho Moran, an attorney with the law firm Farrell Fritz.

“If someone says, ‘It’s my sincerely held religious belief that I should not be vaccinated,’ then employers have to accommodate that,” Moran said. The same goes for a disability that would prevent someone from getting the shot.

One twist is that the vaccine is expected to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under emergency use authorization, rather than the standard process in which the FDA takes more time to review a drug. That makes it different, for example, from the flu vaccine, which has been around for decades.

“For an employer, they’re going to do an analysis of, ‘Is this vaccine safe enough that I want to mandate everybody get it?’” Moran said.

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  • Related Practice Areas: Labor & Employment
  • Featured Attorneys: Domenique Camacho Moran
  • Publications: San Francisco Chronicle