NEW YORK - President Joe Biden said the FDA's full approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine should pave the way for more people to get vaccinated and more companies to require that employees get the shot. "The moment you've been waiting for is here," Biden said. "It's time for you to go get your vaccination and get it today."
Employment attorney Adam Slater said employers can require that workers be vaccinated. "They're allowed to say somebody that's not vaccinated cannot work for us," he said. "Why? Because they're not part of that protected class."
Under the law, private companies can insist employees get vaccinated, Slater said. When it comes to public unions, the terms have to be negotiated. In fact, that negotiation is underway in New York City with the teachers union after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that all teachers and school staff must get vaccinated.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is also requiring state nursing home and health care workers to be inoculated.
"I think in your health care workplaces, you're going to see employers pretty much dig their heels in and mandate that employees become vaccinated," Pamela Wolf, an employment law analyst, said. "In other workplaces where the contact between employees is different, where spread can be mitigated by things like hybrid remote work, for example, you're probably going to see employers taking a little bit less of a hard line."
Under the law, an employee can refuse to be vaccinated if they have a medical condition or religious reason.
"An employee would have to submit documentation from a health care provider indicating the nature of their disability and then both the employer and the employee would have to engage in what we call the interactive process in order to determine whether, in fact, there is a reasonable accommodation that would enable that employee to continue working," Wolf said. "Also, what comes into play is whether or not that employee would be considered a direct threat to others."
Greg Giangrande spent his career in human resources.
"Most of the surveys are revealing that most employees are uncomfortable working with people who aren't vaccinated," Giangrande said. "So I don't think this is going to be a huge hurdle for most employers to overcome because most employees seem to want it."