Updated October 20, 2021. On October 15, 2021, the CDC updated its guidance on workplace vaccination programs. The most significant updates are included below.
The CDC updated its guidance on vaccine mandates to state that “[a]n employer may require that their employees be vaccinated,” and that “employers … may ask an employee about vaccination status without violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.”
The CDC also added recommendations on providing incentives and benefits for vaccinated workers. The CDC observed that guaranteed gift incentives, such as cash bonuses, paid time off, gift cards, free products, or workplace cafeteria coupons, appear to be the most effective financial incentives to encourage workers to get vaccinated. The CDC also suggests considering offering incentives to all employees once the workplace vaccination rate exceeds a specific goal (e.g., 90%).
The CDC also added the following recommendations for building vaccine confidence:
For employers with on-site vaccination clinics, the CDC added the following recommendations:
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On March 16, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) issued updated guidance on workplace vaccination programs to “help employers prepare for vaccination either at the workplace or when vaccine becomes available in the community.”
The CDC recommended that employers “[b]uild vaccine confidence by making confidence visible in [the] workplace,” and advised employers to follow these steps:
The CDC recommends who should be vaccinated first, and then each state creates its own vaccination implementation plan. Employers are encouraged to check state, city, and county health department websites for the latest information on phased implementation, and determine the time frame, if available, when employees will be eligible for vaccination. Employers operating in multiple jurisdictions should establish a vaccination committee or an immunization champion. This committee or individual should monitor vaccination rollout across jurisdictions and notify workers when they are eligible.
The CDC observed that the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) does not mandate vaccination. Whether a state, local government, or employer may require or mandate COVID-19 vaccination is a matter of state or other applicable law. The CDC explained that if an employer requires proof of vaccination, the employer cannot mandate that the employee provide any medical information as part of the proof. Employers who mandate COVID-19 vaccinations can implement (1) medical exemptions for people who may be at risk of an adverse reaction to the vaccine, and (2) religious exemptions for people who may decline vaccination because of a religious belief.
On December 14, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released guidance to address COVID-19 employee vaccine policies. Our memorandum to clients on this guidance is available here.
The CDC recommended that employers should assess options for assisting in the vaccination of their employees. Options include on-site at the workplace and off-site in the community.
The CDC provided the following steps to encourage vaccination when hosting a vaccination clinic at the workplace is not possible:
The CDC stated that after employees are fully vaccinated, employers should continue to follow the CDC’s Guidance for Businesses and Employers Responding to COVID-19. This includes wearing well-fitting masks, social distancing, washing hands, and encouraging employees to stay home if sick. If other workplace health and safety measures were installed, they must remain in place. Widespread vaccination of employees may be one consideration for returning to the workplace. Other considerations include:
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