Can You Require Your Employees To Get Vaccinated For COVID?
If you are an employer in Florida, you may be thinking of requiring your employees to be vaccinated against COVID. However, there is a lot of confusion about whether this is legal and how it can be implemented. Here are some guidelines on Florida Law, related to the mandatory vaccination of employees.
Employees Must be Given Opt Outs
As a general rule, you are allowed to require that employees get vaccinations for COVID. However, you can only do so, if you provide a number of exceptions or “opt out” options for employees. The state currently has forms that you can use, for employees to acknowledge, or request the opt out.
The exceptions to complying with your company’s COVIC vaccine requirement include the following:
- Religious Reasons – An employee can opt out of vaccination, or if the opt out is based on what is known as a “sincerely held religious belief.” Although that phrase is not defined in the law, it has been used and applied in other areas of federal laws, such as in constitutional freedom of religion cases. It may understandably be uncomfortable—or feel wrong—for you to determine whether someone’s religion is “sincerely held” or an actual “religious belief.”
Personal or philosophical disagreements with the vaccine, will not constitute a bona fide religious conflict.
- Immunity – The employee can show that they are immune to COVID. The law contains no further details on what that is, but it would likely include prior infection, or other standards that have been established by state health department officials.
- Testing – The employee can, in lieu of being vaccinated, agree to employer-mandated periodic COVID testing, although the number of tests that can be required, or which have to be taken by the employee is not stated in the law. The employer, not the employee, must pay for the tests.
- Use of PPE – An employee can also simply agree to use things like masks, or other PPE. However, different government agencies, and the federal or the state government, may have differing opinions on what kind of PPE is sufficient.
- Medical – An employee that has a medical condition where the vaccine may not be safe, can also opt out of the vaccine. This includes pregnancy. The employee does need to have medical records, documenting the condition
Note that these only apply to state employers; federal government employers have more leeway in requiring employees to get vaccinated. Federal law only allows exemptions on the basis of religion, and medical reasons.
The state can penalize an employer for wrongly terminating an employee because the employee didn’t get vaccinated, when he or she had a valid opt out reason—up to $50,000, if the state finds improper termination.
Call the West Palm Beach employment law attorneys at Pike & Lustig today for help with your business or employment law questions, or with any business related legal issues you may have.