Companies Likely Can Make You Get A COVID-19 Vaccine; Will They?

December 14, 2020
LRN Corporation

Ford Motor Co. ordered ultra-cold freezers to help it distribute COVID-19 vaccines to employees, and many other companies are doing the same. 

Can companies make their employees get the COVID-19 vaccination in order to return to or stay at work? Legally, they probably can, according to a recent Reuters article on the topic.

The better question: Will they?

Not likely, at least at first, according to the article, which was based on interviews with legal experts and executives. Ford, for instance, told Reuters it would make vaccines available to employees on a voluntary basis.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in May informed employers they could require employees get tested for COVID-19 before allowing them to return to work. Many experts believe that decision might get extended to vaccines, as inoculation is considered integral to safely resuming operations at crowded warehouses, factory lines, and sales floors.

Employers likely will shy away from strict requirement, even though "companies have every good reason to get all of their employees vaccinated, and also have an obligation to keep all employees and customers safe," Lawrence Gostin, a global health law professor at Georgetown University, told Reuters. The reason: risks of legal and cultural backlash.

Surveys have shown Americans have safety concerns about a COVID vaccine. Nearly half of 10,000 respondents to a Pew research survey in September said they would definitely not or probably not get the vaccine, Reuters reported.

Given all the variables, the steps companies take to make their employees and customers as safe as possible will probably come down to a matter of trust as much as science.

About the Author

LRN Corporation

Ethics and compliance leader providing tools, education, and advisory services for global companies to inspire principled performance. LRN’s overall approach recognizes the inherent limitations of rules and regulations in influencing behaviors. In our view, focusing on actions that help build and maintain a values-based culture will mean more compliance and reduced costs as a result of tangible and sustainable behavioral change.

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