We noted last week that vaccine mandates are generally legal. What exemptions exist?
As a preliminary matter, whether a private employer can implement a mandatory vaccine policy and require vaccinations depends largely on the employer’s business. It is well-settled that vaccinations and health screenings are “medical examinations” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and, therefore, the vaccination must be job-related, consistent with business necessity or justified by a direct threat, and no broader or more intrusive than necessary, for the vaccination to comply with, and be permissible under, the ADA. This is why health care providers, schools, nursing homes, and other employers that work in high risk environments or with high risk populations customarily can require mandatory vaccinations while other employers, who may not be able to satisfy this standard, may not. For example, in Hustvet v. Allina Health Sys., the United States Court of Appeals upheld a healthcare system’s requirement that its employees immunize against rubella as a condition of employment.
Beyond this threshold inquiry, an employer implementing a mandatory vaccine policy may be obligated to accommodate (i) an employee’s sincerely held religious belief in accordance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (“Title VII”), and (ii) an employee’s disability or medical condition as required by the ADA.
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