The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its “COVID-19 Vaccine Communication Toolkit for Essential Workers” to include information to educate all employers and employees about COVID-19 vaccines, raise awareness of the benefits of vaccination, and address common questions. Specific guidance for employers can be found in the CDC’s “FAQs about COVID-19 Vaccination in the Workplace: For Employers.”
Benefits of a COVID-19 Vaccination Program
The CDC’s new guidance lists potential benefits of having a workplace COVID-19 vaccination program for both employers and employees and includes practical advice on putting such a program in place. This may be particularly helpful for employers considering whether to implement a COVID-19 vaccination program. Benefits include maintaining a healthy workforce, reducing absences and improving productivity and morale. Further, the CDC suggests that if an employer cannot offer a vaccination program on-site, the employer should encourage employees to seek a COVID-19 vaccination within their community instead and should provide information about where employees can get the vaccine.
Implementing a COVID-19 Vaccination Program
The guidance outlines steps employers should take if they plan to implement a COVID-19 vaccination program, beginning with contacting relevant state health departments to ensure full compliance with state laws. The guidance also provides various resources for employers that choose to host their own vaccination clinics.
Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccines as a Condition of Work
As discussed in a previous McGuireWoods alert, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released guidance in December 2020 about whether and when an employer can require its employees to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC’s guidance clarifies that whether an employer may require or mandate a COVID-19 vaccination is a matter of state or other applicable law. Further, if an employer requires its employees to provide proof that they received a COVID-19 vaccine, the employer cannot require the employee to release any medical information as part of the proof.
The CDC’s guidance also clarifies that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not mandate vaccination under Emergency Use Authorizations. Rather, mandatory vaccination is a matter of state or other applicable law.
According to the new guidance, employers that implement COVID-19 vaccination programs should continue adhering to previously issued guidance on safety protocols — wearing masks, staying six feet away from others, washing hands often and cleaning/sanitizing shared work surfaces.
The CDC also offers suggestions on how employers should address situations where employees experience adverse side effects after receiving the vaccine. These include guidance for employees on the importance of reporting any serious issues, and for employers on dealing with employees calling out sick and staggering the scheduling of vaccinations to avoid attendance problems.
The CDC advises employers considering a COVID-19 vaccination program to offer vaccines to employees regardless of whether they already contracted the virus.
Reach out to your McGuireWoods contact, the authors or any other members of the McGuireWoods labor and employment group if you need help addressing the unique issues raised by COVID-19 or employment issues generally.