Whether a company is an essential business that has operated throughout the pandemic or is expecting to reopen in the coming months, a number of challenges must be addressed in order to provide a safe environment in which employees can work, while at the same time mitigating risk and restoring operations.

This nine-part series examines the most challenging issues faced by employers that are planning to reopen or continue productive operations:

  1. Navigating the Legal Risk of Return (Part One)
  2. Considering Screening Measures for Employees Returning to Work (Part Two)
  3. General Workplace Safety Precautions (Part Three)
  4. Accommodating Special Circumstances (Part Four)
  5. International Employment Considerations (Part Five)
  6. U.S. Regulatory Considerations (Part Six)
  7. OSHA Reinstates Employers’ Obligations to Record Work-Related COVID-19 Cases (Part Seven)
  8. The COVID-19 Vaccine and the Workplace (Part Eight)

Legal and Practical Considerations

As we have previously advised, and as confirmed in guidance issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in December, employers in the U.S. are permitted to require that employees be vaccinated, provided that they make certain accommodations for employees who are unable to receive the vaccine due to a disability or sincerely held religious belief. Implementing a vaccine requirement, however, leads to other questions about how to appropriately address those employees who are entitled to accommodations, whether vaccinated employees can be treated differently from unvaccinated employees, and related issues. Key questions concerning workplace COVID-19 vaccine policies are addressed below.