Does federal law prohibit employers and other institutions from requiring the COVID-19 vaccine?
According to a list maintained by The Chronicle of Higher Education, more than 200 colleges and universities are “requiring [COVID-19] vaccines of at least some students or employees” ahead of the fall semester.
Other employers are requiring — or at least considering a requirement — that their workers be vaccinated against the disease, as well.
Is that legal?
There is no federal law that says vaccines cannot be required for employees or students. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says: “Whether an employer may require or mandate COVID-19 vaccination is a matter of state or other applicable law.”
In updated guidance issued in December, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission implied that employers can have a mandatory vaccination policy, including for COVID-19, as long as employers comply with federal laws stipulating that reasonable accommodations should be made for workers who cannot be immunized because of a disability or religious reason.
Employers also may be subject to collective bargaining agreements that require them to negotiate with employee unions before mandating vaccines as a condition of employment, as the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation has noted.