On August 23, 2021, the FDA granted full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, which had previously been authorized under an emergency use authorization. Although some private employers had begun implementing vaccine mandates for employees under the EUA, particularly in the health care field, many had signaled that they were waiting for a vaccine to receive full approval prior to making vaccines mandatory. Following the full approval of the Pfizer vaccine, many more private and government employers, including CVS, Chevron, and McDonald’s, have begun to implement vaccine mandates. For those employers considering making vaccines mandatory, there are a number of practical considerations to address, from whether a mandate is advisable to the practical components of the policy.
First, from a practical standpoint, many industries have been shaken up by what has been coined, “The Great Resignation.” If your business is struggling to recruit and retain employees, a mandatory vaccination policy may create some initial upheaval in your workforce. Second, how critical are in-person interactions to your business operations? Employers intending to continue remote work for the foreseeable future may feel less urgency to mandate vaccines, while those requiring in-person attendance may feel more acute pressure to require vaccines, both to ensure that their customers feel safe and to ensure that their operations will not be shut down due to possible exposure.
Beyond the considerations about whether to implement a mandatory vaccination policy, businesses must also decide what their policy will include. Will vaccinations be mandatory, full stop, with exceptions only for religious and medical exemptions? Will employees be permitted to opt-out, subject to mask-wearing and weekly testing requirements? If so, what kind of tests will be accepted for employees subject to weekly testing? Who will be responsible for ensuring that employees are complying with the weekly testing policies? How long will employees have until they are required to be fully vaccinated? All of these questions should be answered in any vaccination policy.
Please note that, beyond questions about vaccination status, other medical inquiries by employers and businesses are still governed by the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you have questions about how to implement a vaccine mandate or the types of questions your business can ask its employees, please contact one of our attorneys at (410) 522-1020 to set up an appointment to discuss how your policies can be structured to meet your company’s goals.