Switzerland is super behind the United States as far as vaccinations are concerned, but I finally got my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine two weeks ago and will have my second dose in two more weeks. This means I will be fully vaccinated when I arrive in the US to do the Winning in HR Tour.
I am super happy to be vaccinated and super grateful for the huge blessing that is. But, not everyone wants to be vaccinated, and not everyone can be. Women and Home reached out to me to ask how to talk to your employer about your vaccine concerns, and I answered, but this isn’t the right question.
The question is, should you talk with your employer about your vaccination concerns? The answer to that is no. Why would you? Do you talk to your employer about which antibiotic you should take for a urinary tract infection? Do you ask your employer if you should wear contact lenses or glasses? (Well, you might if you work with certain chemicals that melt contacts on your eyeballs.) You do not bring your other medical decisions to your employer, so why on earth would you bring this one?
I do not think employers should make vaccines mandatory outside of high-risk healthcare settings. I’m not a fan of mandatory vaccines for a disease that targets adults rather than children. And I’m not a fan of employer overreach in our personal and medical lives.
However, the EEOC has reiterated that companies can require mandatory Covid-19 vaccines. (They do acknowledge that they can’t speak to the conflict over the Emergency Use Act.) They write:
The federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19, subject to the reasonable accommodation provisions of Title VII and the ADA and other EEO considerations discussed below. These principles apply if an employee gets the vaccine in the community or from the employer.
So, while I would not advise a non-healthcare organization to require vaccines, the EEOC says you can. And if your company requires a Covid-19 vaccine and you don’t want one, here’s what you need to do.
Talk to your doctor.
If your concerns are medical, then talk with your doctor. There are plenty of people who should not receive the Covid-19 vaccine because of genuine medical concerns. If you feel like you are in that category, don’t go to your HR manager or boss and tell them of your concerns. Ask your HR manager for ADA paperwork, and take that to your doctor. Let your doctor be the one that guides you with medical decisions based on your actual health. If your doctor believes it would be detrimental to your health to receive the vaccine, then have your doctor fill out the ADA paperwork and take it back to the office.
The EEOC requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for people who qualify under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This could be any number of things–from requiring you to wear a mask on-site to requiring you to work at home. It depends on your job. But, your first stop is your own doctor, not your boss.
Your manager and your HR department are not qualified to talk about your health. Even if your boss is a doctor, unless she’s your doctor, she’s not qualified. Talk with your doctor. And if your doctor tells you it’s safe for you to be vaccinated, well, you don’t have an ADA exemption.
And if you’re pregnant, talk with your obstetrician. She may say go ahead and do it now, or she may say wait until the baby is born. Whatever her advice is, it’s for you and your pregnancy. Not your coworker’s pregnancy.
Talk with your religious leader.
If your concerns are religious and belong to a religious organization, make an appointment to speak with your religious leader about your concerns. You want to make sure that your beliefs are sincerely held and not a panicked reaction to something unknown.
The law doesn’t require your religious exemption to be due to the policy of an organized church. It can just be your sincere belief. And if it is your sincere belief, your company is obligated to respect that and make an accommodation for you, as long as it doesn’t cause an undue hardship on the business.
But, take the time to think it out and discuss it. Make sure you truly have a sincere belief in not being vaccinated for spiritual reasons rather than fear. Even if your pastor is pro-vaccine, you can still qualify as a religious exemption because the law is based on your own sincere belief, not anyone else’s. But do talk it out before you make your decision.
If you just don’t want the vaccine.
Fair enough. It’s a new vaccine. While it’s been tested and proclaimed safe, there isn’t a person on this planet who can say what the long-term effects are because there simply hasn’t been enough time. If you think it’s because Bill Gates will track you, head back to your doctor and ask for a mental health evaluation.
You can talk with your employer, and present information on how requiring vaccines may hurt the business. If a high percentage of people in your area are not getting vaccinated, they may well have difficulty keeping employees with this requirement. That’s perfectly fair to point out.
Ultimately, your employer gets to decide to require or not require. You get to decide to work there or not work there. (State laws may vary, of course!) You may think it’s stupid and unfair, and maybe it is. (As I said, I am not a fan of mandatory vaccinations outside of healthcare.) But, the EEOC said they could decide, and they can.