The Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce recently hosted a panel discussion revolving around COVID-19 vaccines and the workplace, and considerations for employers. The nearly two hour online event focused on four subject matters: should vaccinations be mandated in the workplace, what the proper process is for documenting fully vaccinated employees, granting leave for COVID-19 related events, and what should be expected legislatively in the coming months regarding the COVID-19 vaccines.
Can Employers Mandate Vaccines?
Laura Garofalo, an employment attorney at Laura Garofalo Law, LLC, tackled the first question. She said employers can require employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine. But just because they can, doesn’t necessarily mean they should, Garofalo added.
“There are a host of considerations that companies really need to think about first,” Garofalo said. “I’ve grouped these considerations into four buckets: legal, administrative, employee relations, and public relations.”
Garofalo said the safest way for employers to have their employees vaccinated is to have them go to a third party, like a CVS or their own doctors to avoid legal ramifications. An important note to keep in mind is some employees may have a special accommodation, which would prohibit them from getting a vaccine like being pregnant, a religious belief, or a disability.
Brian LaFratta, senior director at Huck Bouma Attorneys at Law, said someone is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their final dose.
“The question is what do you do to get actual confirmation [if you’re an employer],” asked Lafratta. “The easiest way, with a especially with a smaller more mid-size company, is just to request a copy of the employee’s completed vaccination card.”
LaFratta added that employers can make a copy of the vaccination card, but must treat it as confidential material.
Returning To The Office
Public health department guidance is a good resource for employers to use when having their staff return to work said Nate Hoke, a human resources specialist at Insperity.
“Your decisions that you make now can affect the long-term business and your long-term employee relations simply on how you handle this,” said Hoke.
He added having honest conversations between employers and employees is the key to getting the workforce back to in-person if a company decides to go that route, and giving employees time off if they are feeling under the weather.
As far as legislation or policy changes for COVID-19, those are just as novel as the virus and things are changing constantly said Michael Carney, the senior vice president of Emerging Issues at the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
“It will be really important for employers to pay close attention to infection rates in the community,” said Carney. “So in Naperville you’ll want to know what the positivity rates are, local officials have this under control and are doing adequate testing and contact tracing.”
The online event ended with a Q&A and can be viewed in its entirety on the chamber’s YouTube page.
Naperville News 17’s Christian Canizal reports.
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