Can the Federal Government Force You to Get Vaccinated Against Coronavirus without Providing Religious or Medical Exemptions?

President Biden's Executive Order, the COVID Vaccine, and Your Employee Rights

President Biden recently announced a new executive order that requires employers with 100 or more employees to require their employees to get the COVID vaccine or submit to weekly Coronavirus testing.

In the same executive order, he required all federal employees and contractors to get vaccinated. However, they do not have the option to test out of the vaccine. Furthermore, the mandate requires healthcare workers in medical facilities receiving Medicaid and Medicare funding, Head Start teachers, and employees in education facilities receiving federal funding to get vaccinated against Coronavirus.

People opposing the mandate say that it violates employee rights and the constitutional rights of individual US citizens. They claim that forcing a government mandate on private businesses violates federal laws. However, those who favor the mandate believe that it is perfectly legal and will help stop (or slow) the spread of the COVID DELTA Variant.

Read on to learn more about the Presidential Executive order and how it affects your rights as an employee in a covered workplace.

What Does the Employee Vaccine Executive Order Actually Say?

President Biden passed an executive earlier this week that requires millions of Americans to get the Coronavirus vaccine. His mandate requires private enterprise employers with 100 or more employees to either require each employee to get vaccinated by the specific date or submit to weekly COVID testing. However, the mandate allows for deeply held religious exemptions and medical exemptions, as required by law.

The vaccine mandate will also require all federal government employees and contractors to be vaccinated. Federal employees and contractors are allowed deeply held religious exemptions and medical exemptions. However, they cannot choose the weekly testing option if they do not want to receive the vaccine. Therefore, the government or employers with government contracts will need to find accommodations for employees with covered vaccine exemptions.

Additional Orders Under the Employee Vaccine Executive Order

According to the mandate, OSHA will instill a $14,000 fine for every incident in violation of the COVID vaccine mandate. The Department of Health and Human Services will also insist all Head Start teachers and schools run by the  Department of Defense and Bureau of Indian Studies receive vaccinations in a timely manner. Finally, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services will mandate that all hospitals, nursing homes, and medical staff working in any location receiving funding through Medicaid or Medicare insist their employees get vaccinated.

Finally, employers must provide paid time off for employees for issues relating to getting vaccinated.

Details relating to when the mandate goes into full effect and other related issues will be released later in September.

Can You Claim a Religious or Medical Exemption from the President’s New Vaccine Mandate?

The President’s press secretary has made it very clear. She explained that President Biden’s executive order follows religious and disability law guidelines. Therefore, anyone with a deeply held religious belief or a covered medical disability or condition is exempt from the vaccine. People who fit these categories cannot get fired from work, demoted, or face other forms of retaliation because they are unable to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

If you can claim a religious or medical exemption from receiving the vaccine, you and your employer must come up with an accommodation to help keep you and your coworkers safe from COVID. Under these circumstances, submitting to weekly COVID testing may help ensure you are neither exposed to nor carrying Coronavirus.

What Is Considered an Employee’s Religious Exemption from Vaccination Under the Law?

Vaccine mandates usually provide an exemption for deeply held religious beliefs. Not everyone can claim the religious exemption for vaccines. In order for the courts to uphold your right to a religious exemption, you must hold a deeply held religious belief against vaccines.

As a result, you likely have never received any vaccine for any reason, based on your religious beliefs. A deeply held religious exemption typically cannot apply to some vaccines and not apply to others.

What Is Considered an Employee’s Medical  Exemption from Vaccination Under the Law?

Vaccine mandates usually also include exemptions for medical conditions that prevent individuals from receiving a vaccine. The COVID vaccine is not different. People may have allergies to something in the vaccine. They may have a condition that prevents them from getting the vaccine for any reason.

Your employer has the right to ask you for a doctor’s note to prove you have a covered medical exemption from receiving the vaccine. If you have a covered medical exemption, your employer must provide appropriate accommodations for you to work without the vaccine.

What Does the Federal Executive Order Mean for Private Company Employees?

Many larger private companies have instituted some type of vaccine mandate. Businesses, such as Walt Disney Corporation and Walmart, have required some, if not all, of their employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by a specified date.

If you work for a company with 100 or more employees, you will need to get vaccinated. Under the executive order, private company employees may choose to submit to weekly Coronavirus testing instead of taking the vaccine. This option is also an appropriate accommodation for employees with deeply held religious beliefs or medical exemptions.

If you work for a company with less than 100 employees, the President’s mandate does not specifically apply to you. However, your employer may decide to institute a vaccine mandate for all its employees.

What Does the Federal Executive Order Mean for Government Employees and Contractors?

Government employees and contractors, however, do not have the same benefits as private sector employees. Government employees and contractors cannot opt-out of the vaccine by agreeing to weekly COVID testing. Instead, unless they have a medical or deeply held religious exemption, they must receive the COVID vaccine.

However, if a federal employee or contractor has a medical or religious exemption from receiving the vaccine, they can discuss alternatives to receiving the vaccine with their HR team, supervisor, or employer.

What Can You Do If Your Employer Ignores Your Medical or Religious Exemptions for Vaccination?

Your employer has every right to insist you receive the Coronavirus vaccine. As a matter of fact, the new executive order is designed to lower the percentage of unvaccinated people in the United States. However, any vaccine mandate must acknowledge that there is a percentage of unvaccinated people that do not have a choice to get vaccinated.

If your employer retaliates against you for refusing the vaccine on deeply held religious or medical grounds, you have the right to seek legal assistance. You have the right to demand your employer allow you the right to your religious or medical exemptions as defined by law.

Your employment discrimination lawyer can help you file a wrongful termination or retaliation claim under laws relating to disability discrimination or religious discrimination. A qualified employment lawyer will help you get all the back and front pay for which you are entitled. In addition, they will help ensure no one else in your workplace faces retaliation for a medical condition or religious belief that prevents them from getting the Coronavirus vaccine.

Questions? Contact DSLG Employment Lawyers to Request a Free Case Review.

Your employer has an obligation to follow the federal law that mandates employees to get vaccinated. However, they also have an obligation to follow federal laws requiring medical and religious exemptions to the law. If your employer punishes you for exercising your right to a medical or religious exemption, you have the right to fight back and demand justice. The employment discrimination lawyers at the Derek Smith Law Group in New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Miami, and Los Angeles can help. Call us at 800.807.2209  to request more information and receive a free consultation.

About Derek Smith

Attorney Derek T. Smith is an experienced sexual harassment & discrimination law litigator who has particular experience in the areas of workplace discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful termination, civil rights litigation, employment law and civil litigation.

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