Yes, your employer can require you to get a COVID vaccine, experts say

ORLANDO, Fla. — The coronavirus vaccine has been available for almost two months, and as availability expands, employers could start requiring their workers to get it.

As with most mandates, there are some exceptions.

Legal experts have weighed in on both the medical and religious exemptions.

READ: Parts of Central Florida see economic boom during pandemic as other areas go bust

One point of contention was whether employers would have to wait until the vaccine was approved and licensed by the FDA, or if they could require it under the current Emergency Use Authorization.

“Rocket Lawyer“ provides online legal help for people through their smartphones. Founder Charley Moore says he’s been fielding questions about vaccine mandates for months.

He says the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued guidance saying, “employers can mandate a COVID vaccine as long as they comply with all federal EEO laws.”

That means while the vaccine remains unlicensed, the EEOC says employers can require them.

READ: Extremely vulnerable residents under 65 struggling to obtain COVID-19 vaccine

WFTV Channel 9's Melonie Holt WFTV reports OMNI Healthcare mandates COVID-19 vaccines for staff

Posted by OMNI Healthcare on Friday, February 12, 2021

Moore says that’s due to the designation the EEOC established at the start of the pandemic.

“The COVID crisis is what’s called a direct threat under the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Moore says. “So unless an employee really falls into one of two exemptions- a medical exemption or a sincerely held religious belief- those employees can be mandated to get the vaccine in the workplace.

Omni Healthcare in Brevard County was one of the first companies in Central Florida to require its staff to get inoculated. Others have offered incentives for employees to get the shot rather than requiring it.

“We’re seeing companies choose the best path for them,” Moore adds.

Target, Aldi, Dollar General, McDonalds, Darden Restaurants, and Trader Joes are all offering four hours of pay for the double dose vaccine.

READ: Volunteer ‘vaccine hunters’ help Brevard County residents preregister for COVID-19 vaccination appointments

Moore says large companies aren’t the only ones trying to figure out what’s legal when it comes to getting their employees vaccinated.

“Especially small business owners who are sort of wondering whether or not they can mandate the vaccine, or what’s the best way to implement a vaccine policy in the workplace,” Moore says. “We are in a crisis, and government has extraordinary powers in a crisis that it’s exercising.