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Can the COVID-19 vaccine be mandatory? Perspective for employers and employees.

COVID-19 vaccinations have already started in some parts of Illinois. As news of the vaccine rollout continues, many employers and employees are left with questions about vaccines in the workplace. Should it be required? Can it be required? Can I refuse the vaccine? No clear-cut answers exist, but current laws do provide guidance.

Employer Perspective

Employers have long had the responsibility of providing a safe work environment for employees. When COVID-19 outbreaks began within certain industries, the reality of danger of the coronavirus became apparent. While the question of whether a business or employer should mandate coronavirus vaccines among employees can only be answered by decision makers within a company. Illinois employment law can only guide the legality of that decision.

Generally, employers can mandate employees receive a vaccination, including the coronavirus vaccine if it is necessary to business and the function of the job, which are both standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employers should exercise caution when determining if a mandate is necessary. Anxiety is already high given the impact of coronavirus and if enough people refuse it could hurt operations.

Employee Perspective

While recent surveys have shown that a large majority of the population wants to be vaccinated, it is understandable that employees may have concerns about the possibility for mandatory vaccinations in the workplace. Objections could exist that would allow an employee to be exempt from receiving the vaccine, like religious objections. However, it is the employee’s responsibility to prove how their religious beliefs are being violated.

Additionally, Illinois is an employment at will state and if an employee objects to receiving the vaccine without proper proof of an exemption, he or she can legally be terminated. Research shows that most major companies are only encouraging vaccination and providing resources to employees but are not requiring a mandate.

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