Can Your Employer Force You to Get a COVID Vaccine?


The COVID vaccine remains center stage as a key means to fighting the COVID-19 virus and its variants. Returning to work for many companies has meant navigating these complex issues like how the vaccine can make it safer for many workers to be back in a traditional work environment while at the same time limiting risk. The vaccine remains polarizing, but employers and employees are now both at the point of navigating the legality of mandates. Here is a high-level look at whether your employer can force you to get vaccinated.  

The Short Answer Is Yes 

The short answer is that, broadly, yes, it is legal for an employer to require employees to get vaccinated. However, there are a couple of scenarios where an employer can’t force you to get vaccinated. Important to note is that this blog can serve as a guide, but is not meant to be legal advice. You should also have this discussion with your employer if they are mandating the vaccine, but you have a reason not to be vaccinated. 

Understanding Exemptions 

There are two paths of exemption from a mandated vaccine, but they should be considered carefully. The two exemptions are medical and religious reasons. For example, if you are an employee and have a medical reason why you can’t get the vaccine, you may qualify for an exemption from the mandate. Similarly, if you are an employee and you have a religious reason why you shouldn’t get the vaccine, you could have safe harbor under the Civil Rights Act. The proof required for these different exemptions varies, but you should discuss with your employer in either case. Work with them to look into different options, such as wearing masks in the workplace or social distancing. If working remotely is an option, consider whether that is acceptable instead.  

Look at it from an Employer’s Perspective 

Understanding why an employer may feel the need to impose mandated vaccinations can help you better understand the situation. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and new variants of the virus emerge, many different employers need to focus on ensuring their employees and their customers are protected to the best of their ability. Right now, the best protection against the COVID-19 virus for both individuals and the community is widespread vaccination.  

While you as an individual may not think the vaccine is necessary, consider the repercussions of spreading the virus unknowingly to vulnerable community members because of that decision. Employers are concerned about impacts to their workforce and their ability to keep running their business during the pandemic. Mandating vaccines is a broad strokes option for them to do something within their power to keep the lights on.  

As an All-Star Tennessee Employment Service, we’re here to help you keep the lights on. Reach out to speak with a recruiter today.  

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