Federal mandates do allow for some exemptions to mandatory vaccination policies, such as disabilities and sincerely held religious beliefs that may require reasonable accommodations to be provided, as long as it does not cause an undue hardship for the practice.
EEOC defines a “reasonable accommodation” as a change in the work environment that allows an individual with a disability to have an equal opportunity to apply for a job, perform a job’s essential functions, or enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment.
And, an accommodation poses an “undue hardship” if it results in significant difficulty or expense for the employer—taking into account the nature and cost of the accommodation, the resources available to the employer, and the operation of the employer’s business. If a particular accommodation would result in an undue hardship, an employer is not required to provide it but still must consider other accommodations that do not pose an undue hardship.
Depending on the employee’s role in your practice, reasonable accommodations may vary, ranging from modifying work duties so that they do not have direct contact with patients, to possibly wearing additional PPE, to being placed on a leave of absence. As more is known about the COVID-19 vaccine, and the CDC and states produce guidelines and recommendations on vaccination, healthcare providers will be better positioned to deal with employees’ refusal to get vaccinated and to navigate through vaccination processes.
One consideration practices may want to implement is requiring a vaccine declination form to be signed by employees who refuse to participate in the COVID-19 vaccination program.
Members can contact our on-call HR consultant, Dee Brown, for assistance with addressing employee issues and navigating through a mandatory COVID-19 policy.