Can companies mandate vaccination? Could they fire me?

A growing number of businesses have announced COVID-19 vaccination mandates for all workers amid the rise of the Delta variant, and the trend is bound to pick up in the coming weeks as companies try to re-open their offices.

More and more industry giants — like United Airlines, Uber, and Google — recently announced a vaccine requirement for all workers returning to offices. Now you may be wondering: What happens if workers refuse to get the jab? Can employers legally fire someone who won’t get the vaccination? Will unvaccinated workers be subjected to weekly testing?

Here’s what employees need to know about vaccinations and work.

Question: Can a company require workers to get vaccinated?

Answer: Yes, companies can require workers to get vaccinated. New guidance by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said employers can legally require COVID-19 vaccination for employees to re-enter the office.

Whether it’s a private company or a government agency, they can require you to get the vaccine. Some companies have even offered their employees incentives to get the jab.

Question: Can I get fired if I don’t get the coronavirus vaccine?

Answer: There’s not much legally protecting you from being fired for refusing the vaccine. Federal laws don’t prevent companies from not implementing a vaccination order, but they must keep it private.

However, some workers can legally refuse to get vaccinated — like those with a disability or specific religious beliefs.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, workers with a religious objection or disability may be excused from mandates. Citing the ADA, SHRM said that an employer can implement a policy that includes “a requirement that an individual shall not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of individuals in the workplace.”

This would require a business to figure out whether a worker is a “direct threat” to the safety of other workers. If they are, then accommodation should be made. This all depends on how important an unvaccinated worker is to a company, and whether it is vital for them to be on the premises.


Question: How can I show proof that I’m vaccinated?

Answer: New York City recently became the first US to require proof of at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to partake in a number of indoor activites, including, dining, gyms, and venus. Entire countries — like France and Italy — implemented similar mandates last month.

Saying “I’m vaccinated” isn’t going to get you far; there are ways, both physically and digitally, that can show proof you are vaccinated.

The most common method will be the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-issued vaccination card. The physical paper card that you received after the first dose of your vaccination shows when you got your shots, which vaccine you received, and can keep a record of future COVID-19 vaccines if boosters shots are recommended.

If you’re worried about losing the physical vaccination card, you can take a picture of it on your smartphone and store it in your photo library. That way it can be accessed easily. You can also go back to where you received your vaccination and ask for a new card.

There also have been digitalized versions of vaccination cards, also known as “vaccine passports.” New York State has the Excelsior Pass app which can go into your smartphone’s wallet and be accessed like any digital payment.

Other states like California, Colorado, Louisiana, New Jersey and Utah have similar programs, while pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens provide digital access for people to show vaccination proof if they were vaccinated at either store.

Question: What are my options if I don’t want to get vaccinated?

Answer: If you don’t get want the vaccine, you will likely need to agree to weekly testing at work, as well as mask-wearing and social distancing.

MGM Resorts International, for example, started mandatory regular testing for unvaccinated employees in late July.

The Biden Administration said it will require all federal employees and onsite contractors to wear masks on the job no matter where they are, to physically distance themselves from other employees, to comply with weekly or bi-weekly COVID testing, and to adhere to restricted official travel.

The Pentagon will require the COVID-19 vaccine for members of the military by mid-September, according to NBC News, citing a memo from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Miller also issued a memo on Monday encouraging military forces to get vaccinated because the “health and readiness of our force is critical to America’s defense.”