Missouri Business Headlines

Vaccinating your workforce

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vaccine

This document shall not be construed as legal advice. For answers specific to your situation, you should consult an attorney. This document provides general guidance regarding considerations employers can be making.

As COVID-19 vaccines are distributed across Missouri, employers need to prepare for how they will handle vaccinations among their staff members.

Missouri’s vaccination plan prioritizes health care workers and vulnerable populations for vaccinations. Over time, the vaccinations will become available to additional Missourians.

Businesses will need to consider how they communicate about the vaccine to their employees.

While some employers might consider requiring employees to receive the vaccine — and there are some indications that this is allowable under the law — it’s unclear how the courts will ultimately view vaccination requirements. This is a very unique situation and there is very little caselaw that would guide how a court might rule if an employee challenged a required vaccination.

This has led to a variety of opinions on how far employers can go to have their staff members vaccinated. Given this unique situation, many employers are choosing to adopt policies that highly recommend, but don’t require, vaccination by employees.

As always, employers must be aware of existing exceptions to vaccination policies including making accommodations for sincerely held religious beliefs and ADA disabilities.

Employers should try to provide a reasonable accommodation if an employee makes a request not to receive the vaccination for either above reason.

Employers can take steps to mitigate the risk of the unvaccinated employee potentially spreading COVID-19 in the workplace, but should not automatically bar the employee from the workplace.

Employers should clearly communicate their recommendations about staff members being vaccinated for COVID-19 vaccine. They should also be prepared to evaluate requests for accommodations.

This is an evolving situation and employers should continue to watch for new workplace guidance as the vaccines become more available.

Exceptions

However, an employer cannot simply require every employee to receive a vaccination without exceptions. An employer must make accommodations for:

  • Sincerely held religious beliefs
  • ADA disabilities

Employers should try to provide a reasonable accommodation if an employee makes a request not to receive the vaccination for either above reason.

Employers can take steps to mitigate the risk of the unvaccinated employee potentially spreading Covid-19 in the workplace, but should not automatically bar the employee from the workplace. If reasonable accommodations cannot be made (those that do not pose an undue hardship), the employer may be able to bar the employee from the workplace, but should consider whether that employee can work remotely.

Communication

Employers should clearly communicate whether they will require employees to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. If employers choose to do so, they should also be prepared to evaluate requests for accommodations.

The vaccination process is in its early stages with limited distribution to date. However, employers should prepare now for what action they want to take regarding vaccinations for their employees.

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