Your Employer Wants You to Be Vaccinated and You Don’t Want to Be. Now What?

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.

Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay

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18 thoughts on “Your Employer Wants You to Be Vaccinated and You Don’t Want to Be. Now What?

  1. Ooops … I think the title of this article should be “Your Employer [not Employee] Wants You to Be Vaccinated and You Don’t Want to Be. Now What?”

    But I was intrigued by the title, and so I ask, what are the implications of an employee wanting their manager to be vaccinated and the manager not wanting to be? Do the same rules discussed in this article apply to the manager, or does something change?

    1. Thank you! Fixed!

      And your question is an interesting one that I don’t know the answer to. There was a school in Florida that said they would fire anyone who was vaccinated, but I don’t know what happened with that.

      Employers aren’t generally entitled to know anything about your health unless it’s affecting your job.

  2. I do think that employers should require their employees to be vaccinated, subject to the tiny minority exempted by disability and religion accommodations. How else can an employer live up to their obligation under OSHA to provide a safe workplace? And, no, I do not agree that “[t]here are plenty of people who should not receive the Covid-19 vaccine because of genuine medical concerns.” Thus far, the only consensus in the medical community appears to be that immuno-compromised individuals should not get vaccinated, a very small percentage of the population. Those with other, underlying, health conditions are the very people most adversely affected by COVID-19, and, definitely, need to be vaccinated, sooner, rather than later. With regard to pregnant women, there have been several widely-publicized cases recently in which a pregnant woman died — or almost died — from COVID, but the baby survived, in good condition. With regard to religious accommodations, they’re only required if they do not cause more than a de minimus negative impact, a very low legal burden for employers. Obviously, employers cannot FORCE employees to get vaccinated. If an employee genuinely thinks the health threat from the vaccine is greater than the threat from COVID-19, or that they’ll go to hell if they get vaccinated, they’re going to decline to get vaccinated and suffer the consequences of that decision.

  3. This is a great article, and I agree with GrannyBunny. Unless you are someone who takes zero medications, we all should be required to do a cost/benefit analysis when taking medication. Even OTC – I recently learned that Advil kills almost as many people every year as prescription narcotics. One of our senators almost died from an Advil OD recently, because she’s so against narcotics and so self-medicated against doctors’ orders (actually a common problem). I believe that if we do that cost/benefit analysis with facts and not you-tube Qanon fantasies, 99.9% of us should come to the conclusion that not getting covid, which has killed millions, is way better than not getting the vaccine. Many of the anti-vaxxer info comes straight from The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), which unfortunately is public. So people go in there and look at anecdotal reports of problems with vaccines and assume they’re true. The actual science shows that vaccines are very safe and that reaching herd immunity and immunity for yourself FAR outweigh a small, small chance of an adverse reaction, it’s good for you and the community, what could be better?

  4. I disagree that one’s employer has no say in one’s vaccination. My choice of antibiotic for a urinary infection affects no one but me and it’s none of my boss’s business. My personal choice about vaccination affects others around me. If I decide to accept the risk and skip the jab, a case that is mild for me could infect and kill an immune compromised coworker. It could give a healthy coworker a case, perhaps a break-through case in spite of her own vaccination, that doesn’t kill her but that she takes home where it harms her baby or kills her mother. It could cause coworkers to be stressed by concerns that covid cases around them could harm them. In the same way that an employer prevents sexual harassment, in which one employee’s willing behavioral choice harms another, the employer should aim to keep workers safe from coworkers’ vaccine choices. It’s not fair that covid makes one person’s very personal choice affect other people, but then life isn’t fair. To be a good citizen and a good human, each of us who can be vaccinated should be, or else work from home or wear a mask and keep distance. Employers should insist that we not risk our coworkers and their families by our choices. (Around here vaccination rate is very poor and mask wearing isn’t common. Given the clear trend toward unvaccinated people going maskless, it seems fair for an employer to demand proof of vaccination as a condition for going maskless.)

  5. There are very few people who can not be vaccinated to due to medical issues. Also there are very few religions that are against vaccines. The religions that cover 99.9% of the US are all just fine with vaccines. So if someone has a “personal religious objection” then it is almost certainly that they just don’t want to get it and are making up the objection. I really don’t like this post. If someone does not want to get a vaccine then we should not in any way give them advice as to how to get out of it. Now, if the post was “What do I do if I for real can’t get the vaccine?” then that would be different.

  6. Excellent article, which puts the decision right on the individual to deal with the consequences of not getting vaccinated. Yes, there are medical reasons to not be vaccinated by a certain form of the vaccine, which if you are asking your doctor for advice, they will know exactly if you can or cannot get the vaccine. My daughter, who consulted with her doctor, was told to get the Phizer doses but he asked her to wait until he could give her the shots so he could keep track of any reactions and answer all her questions. She has now been fully vaccinated and had a lesser reaction to the second shot because she listened to her doctor and rested for 48 hours (2 days) after getting the shots. I think half the problem with getting the vaccines is the question of getting enough sick time off to recoup. That’s an issue employers should offer–a given time off period for all employees and provide access to scheduling the shots by accommodating the schedules. But this also brings up, the responsibility of the individual employee to employer requirement to be vaccinated. Under FLMA and ADA with OSHA requirements, the employer doesn’t have to accommodate to an individual ideal situation, especially when the refusal to get vaccinated doesn’t fall under the exemptions listed ( and there are many exemptions but they don’t include infringement of personal freedom). If you truly don’t want to vaccinate, and the issue is more of a personal choice than an exemption, then you, as an individual may need to consider a different place to be employed, because of your choice.

  7. I think that the whole way the vaccine was positioned has cleverly evaded the law so that an employer can in fact fire an employee for refusing to participate in a Phase 3 medical trial, which is the essence of what the EUA really is. For myself, I cannot possible determine the safety of this vaccine as there is literally no long-term data available. In addition, I already had Covid which was a two day cold. I prefer to rely on my own antibodies and wait until the vaccine has formal FDA approval and the clinical trials have been completed in 2023. If my employer chooses to fire me they can do so. I’m not a lab rat and this isn’t Nazi Germany.

    1. No, that’s literally not the case here – there are massive amounts of data available. EUAs only exist during the course of a public health emergency, which isn’t just about approving a biologic on an adjusted schedule, but permitting to to be distributed for only as long as the public emergency is in effect. You not participating in a Phase 3 study doesn’t impact your employer, and it’s not a good analogy here either- The vaccinations approved have already gone through phase 3 trials, which have included tens of thousands of people tracked over 2 months, which is more than reasonable for a vaccine.

      The testing is done. Other people have done the dangerous part. And natural Covid antibodies only last a few months, so you’re not as protected as you think you are. Obviously it’s your call what treatments you take, but you’re incorrect about the data and about the law. The law is being followed 100%. I just don’t want to get sick because you’re ignorant of it.

      1. Unfortunately, you are misinformed as are most people which is what is very concerning to me. Right now is the Phase 3 trial. If the trials were completed we would already have FDA approval and the EUA wouldn’t be necessary. Anyone that participated in the vaccine is part of a medical experiment, which is fine if that’s their choice, but everyone should be more aware of this instead of thinking the opposite. If you read the Fact Sheets on the CDC site you will see they say “Serious and unexpected side effects may occur. Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine is still being studied in clinical trials.”. Sounds different than all the news pushing that vaccines are entirely safe and effective right? I’m too tired to look, but another part of that section provides the end date of the trials and that is in 2023. So essentially employer are forcing employees to be lab animals, due to a cleverly crafted law that creates a conundrum. What is an interesting story to follow, however, is the lawsuit the Indian bar has just filed against the WHO. I don’t even want to link it here because it’s a taboo topic, but you can just Google what I described and will easily find it. So the question is if they are right and there is another drug available that works at a higher efficacy than vaccines, why risk taking an unapproved vaccine? And if there is a viable option to the vaccine than the EUA can’t exist. Should be a very interesting story to follow and see how it all unfolds. If I had a choice between these two preventions I would go with the non-vaccine one due to 40+ years of medical studies on it.

        1. JB, you are incorrect. The Phase 3 trials are done.

          Any and all medications can cause side effects, and even serious and significant ones. That doesn’t make them broadly unsafe.

          As far as the ongoing trials? Sure. For one thing, there are still trials going on in younger people (children and infants.) Also, trials to test for immunity against new variants. etc. But that does not mean that the current vaccine roll out is a phase 3 trial. The claim itself show how profoundly misinformed you are. Because this is not how phase 3 trials are run.

        1. Well, actually, these vaccines weren’t really “made in 6 months.” They all built on processes that had been developed over prior years.

          1. I think you need brush up on your reading comprehension and also spit up some propaganda Kool Aid. We are in an Emergency Use (EUA), the whole concept of which is to take measured risk with an incomplete vaccine. It really doesn’t matter that they have been working on this for “ten whole years” which is actually a very short time for medicine, that doesn’t change the EUA status. Also, I provided a link with the most simple, straight forward and clear documentation on the CDC site and directly from a vaccine manufacturer and you even misunderstood the clinical trial dates written in the most plain and simple English for you. This seems like some deep cognitive dissonance at work here.

        2. Did you read the material at your link? The ongoing clinical trial appears to be for children age 12 – 16.

          1. Kindly read my recent comment. With all due respect you aren’t reading this document correctly at all. Please try again.

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