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Can my employer require me to get the COVID-19 vaccine in order to enter my workplace?
Yes. An employer can require that an employee receive the COVID-19 vaccine in order to return to the workplace, unless the employee cannot get the vaccine because of a disability, because their doctor has advised them not to get the vaccine while pregnant or breastfeeding, or because of a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance.
If an employee has a disability that precludes them from getting a COVID-19 vaccine, has been specifically advised by their doctor not to get the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant or breastfeeding, or has a sincerely held religious belief, practice or observance that precludes them from getting a COVID-19 vaccine, their employer must provide a reasonable accommodation from their mandatory vaccine policy, unless doing so would impose an undue burden on their operations.
Employers generally may request medical documentation to confirm a disability or to confirm that an employee who requests a reasonable accommodation on the basis of pregnancy or breastfeeding was advised by their doctor to seek such accommodation. Employers must ensure that all information about an employee's disability is kept confidential and must maintain all information about employee illness as a confidential medical record.
If a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance precludes you from getting a COVID-19 vaccine, an employer generally may not question the sincerity of an employee's religious beliefs, practices, or observance, unless the employer has an objective basis for questioning either the religious nature or the sincerity of a particular belief, practice, or observance. In that case, the employer may make a limited inquiry into the facts and circumstances supporting the employee's request.
Safety—your safety as well as the safety of your coworkers, clients, and customers—is a factor in evaluating whether a potential accommodation would be reasonable. An employer must base its decisions regarding any potential safety hazard on objective, scientific evidence, including evidence reflected in policies and guidance from federal, state, and local authorities (including the CDC), and not on unfounded assumptions or stereotypes.
A reasonable accommodation may include allowing the employee to continue to work remotely, or otherwise to work in a manner that would reduce or eliminate the risk of harm to other employees or to the public. A reasonable accommodation may also include providing the employee with personal protective equipment that sufficiently mitigates the employee's risk of COVID-19 transmission and exposure.
Under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, if there is no reasonable accommodation that your employer can provide that would mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission to its employees and customers, then your employer can enforce its policy of excluding unvaccinated employees from the physical workplace, even if you are unvaccinated because of a disability, pregnancy, or breastfeeding, or a sincerely held religious belief. However, that does not mean that your employer can automatically discipline you if you cannot get vaccinated, as the employer may be precluded from doing so by other laws, regulations, or policies.
For employers with a unionized workforce, the applicable collective bargaining agreement already may vest the employer with the management right to unilaterally develop and implement a vaccine program.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights enforce these laws. See question K.2-K.7 of What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws for more information on protections from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and see https://www.njoag.gov/about/divisions-and-offices/division-on-civil-rights-home/covid-19-faqs/ for more information on protections enforced by the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights.