Employers can require their employees to get COVID-19 vaccines, according to new federal guidance on Friday.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said that federal equal employment opportunity laws don't limit the incentives that employers can offer their employees to confirm their vaccination status. The agency also encouraged employers to use federal resources to help educate employees and their families about COVID-19 vaccines and their benefits.
"Employers should keep in mind that because some individuals or demographic groups may face greater barriers to receiving a COVID-19 vaccination than others, some employees may be more likely to be negatively impacted by a vaccination requirement," EEOC said in a statement.
The agency also warned employers against offering strong incentives if they plan to administer vaccines to their employees. The guidance could affect many hospitals and other providers.
"Because vaccinations require employees to answer pre-vaccination disability-related screening questions, a very large incentive could make employees feel pressured to disclose protected medical information," the agency said in a statement.
Vaccine demand has declined significantly in recent weeks, even though there are enough vaccine supplies to go around. As a result, the Biden administration has made a series of policy changes to improve access and address vaccine hesitancy in recent weeks. States have also gotten in on the action, offering everything from cash incentives to free beer to encourage more people to get vaccinated.
The latest guidance from the EEOC should give providers and other employers the clarity and peace of mind they need to help get their employees vaccinated.
Still, most experts agree that increasing vaccine access through primary care would have the greatest impact since people trust their primary care provider regarding decisions about their healthcare.