a woman in the office wearing a mask while working and facetiming.

Can Companies Require Vaccinations and Mask Mandates?

As the pandemic is closing to an end for vaccinated Americans, CDC guidelines, such as social distancing and wearing masks, are seen less and less. Those that have practiced CDC guidelines and have proof of vaccination are ready to enjoy their lives again there is still a concern for workers. For those states and counties that have lifted mask mandates, there is a large gray area around companies and offices requiring masks and vaccinations and what that will look like. 


Mask or no mask


As we are nearing 75% of Americans receiving their vaccination, states have decided to lift mask mandates and socially distancing efforts. For those states and counties that have lifted mask mandates, there is a concern surrounding the safety of both the workers and customers that enter businesses. 


The option to remove your mask indoors is based entirely on an honors system, so there is little to no way of knowing if someone is vaccinated. Specifically for workers in the medical field, restaurants, and grocery stores, there is a concern for these individuals to contract the disease while working. Now that the CDC has lifted mask mandates indoors, businesses are struggling to enforce the mask mandate. 


The concern for no masks is the greatest in states and counties that have low vaccination rates. Not only are the unvaccinated seeing a rapid spike, but states are also offering incentives to get vaccinated. In particular, West Virginia is offering rewards such as; scholarships, cash, and guns.


The vaccination is a personal choice for everyone to make, but business owners are liable if their employees contract the coronavirus from mask-less customers. As businesses and offices return in-person, questions rise about mask mandates, what that means for vaccinated employees, and for those that are not. 


Ultimately, the decision will come down to the head of the company. Factors to consider will be the company size, the location (depending on city/state/county restrictions and COVID-19 rates), and the number of vaccinated individuals. The question here stands, can business owners require their employees to get vaccinated?


Can employees require a vaccine?


 The United States ranks #13 for the countries that have the most vaccinations per citizen. With more than half of Americans are vaccinated, companies look to return to office by the end of the year. The elephant in the room is; what is the future of work unvaccinated employees? 


In the United States, companies legally can require their workers to get vaccinated. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has states that overall, employers can require the vaccine if they follow accommodations. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) allow for accommodations to the vaccine for both disabilities and religious beliefs. 


Employers have the right to bring these accommodations to light to their employer, but the EEOC believes unvaccinated employees could be a ‘direct threat’ in the workplace. Whether employees choose to take this stance or not, they should do their due diligence to educate their employees about vaccine benefits, abide by the CDC guidelines, require proof of vaccinations, and offer PTO for those getting the vaccine. 


Overall, the future of work will depend on every company. Some will require to be in person with no mask or vaccination mandate, while others may never return to the office. Depending on your field of work, your company culture, and the functionality of your business, there are endless possibilities. If you are returning to the office, we hope you stay safe and put health before work.