PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As more Oregonians become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, many are wondering if their employer may require them to get a vaccine.
Liani Reeves, an attorney and shareholder at Bullard Law said employers can require employees to get the vaccine but there are exceptions.
“So for example employers must consider exceptions from employees who object to the vaccine based on sincerely held religious beliefs under the Title VII civil rights statute,” she said. “They also have to consider exceptions from employees who may not be able to get the vaccine due to a disability-related issue under the American with Disabilities Act.”
Reeves said that while employers are not required to grant exceptions that create “undue hardships” on the business, they still have to work with the employee who is raising objections to determine if a reasonable accommodation is possible.
“So employers can ask whether or not they’ve received the vaccine but they need to be careful about how they ask for it and what they do with the information,” Reeves said. “Employers should really ask for a yes or no answers only. If the employee says they have not received the vaccine, the employer should not ask why they didn’t receive the vaccine because that will likely become a disability-related inquiry under the American with Disabilities act or the ADA.”
While most employers in Oregon can require employees to get the vaccine, there are some workers who are exempt under state law. This includes law enforcement officers, correctional officers, firefighters and even health care workers, according to the statute.
“Employers should be consulting with their attorneys before they start asking questions or if they have any concerns about the vaccine whether it can be required, said Ivan Resendiz Gutierrez, an associate and attorney at Miller Nash Graham & Dunn, LLP.
For employers that have a unionized workforce, collective bargaining agreements may contain language that also prohibits employers from requiring employees to get the vaccine.
“One of the takeaways is there just needs to be a lot of communication in the workforce between employers and employees if there is a labor union with the union to come to the best solution to try to protect people to the greatest extent,” Reeves said.