Q. We’ve had so many employee absences due to the flu this year. Next year, can we require all employees to get a flu shot?
A. Generally, yes, although you should allow employees to seek an exemption for medical or religious reasons. In its document, “Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act”, the EEOC raised the question: “May an employer covered by the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 compel all of its employees to take the influenza vaccine regardless of their medical conditions or their religious beliefs during a pandemic?” The answer:
“An employee may be entitled to an exemption from a mandatory vaccination requirement based on an ADA disability that prevents him from taking the influenza vaccine. This would be a reasonable accommodation barring undue hardship (significant difficulty or expense). Similarly, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, once an employer receives notice that an employee’s sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance prevents him from taking the influenza vaccine, the employer must provide a reasonable accommodation unless it would pose an undue hardship as defined by Title VII (‘more than de minimis cost’ to the operation of the employer’s business, which is a lower standard than under the ADA).
“Generally, ADA-covered employers should consider simply encouraging employees to get the influenza vaccine rather than requiring them to take it.”
Also, keep in mind that if any of your employees are unionized, you may have to bargain with the union before implementing a mandatory vaccination policy.