| Special to USA TODAY
How the new RNA technology is used to create the COVID-19 vaccines
The COVID-19 vaccine is using new technology that has never been used before in traditional vaccines. Here’s how an mRNA vaccine works.
Just the FAQs, USA TODAY
Johnny C. Taylor Jr., a human resources expert, is tackling your questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest HR professional society.
The questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor’s answers below have been aedited for length and clarity.
Have a question? Do you have an HR or work-related question you’d like me to answer? Submit it here.
Question: With COVID-19 vaccines now rolling out, can employers mandate their workforce gets one? – Anonymous
Johnny C. Taylor Jr.: Thanks for asking, as this is the question on everyone’s mind – from employers to workers. In fact, nearly two-thirds of organizations say they will encourage employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine, and 64% of working Americans are likely to get a vaccine once available. This number jumps to more than three quarters if their employer mandates it.
As for requiring a vaccine, the short answer is yes, a company could mandate that their employees get a COVID-19 vaccine. In December, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidance stating employers could encourage or possibly require COVID-19 vaccinations for workers. However, they must comply with current workplace laws – namely the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Let’s break this down a little bit. Based on EEOC guidance, some federal and state laws allow exemptions protecting the rights of employees who are not able to receive a vaccine, including those with a disability or a sincerely held religious belief. In this case, an employer may make reasonable accommodations – such as remote work or moving to an area that is not consumer-facing.
That said, if an employee cannot get vaccinated for these reasons, and reasonable accommodation isn’t possible, an employer could exclude the employee from physically entering the workplace. But importantly, this doesn’t mean an individual can be automatically terminated. Employers will need to determine if any other rights apply under the EEOC laws or other federal, state, and local rules.
The important thing to keep in mind here is that employers are doing their best to provide a reasonably safe work environment. Most of us haven’t managed through a pandemic or any issue that has had such a profound impact on the workplace.
At the end of the day, transparent communication between employers and employees is crucial to ensure everyone is on the same page and is staying healthy at work and at home.
If you have questions about the vaccine protocol for your company, talk to HR. They likely have a plan in place regarding a vaccination policy and will communicate their goals and priorities to the larger organization. Stay safe!
COVID-19: What to do next if you test positive
If you test positive for COVID-19, here are the steps you need to take to get better and help stop the spread.
ProblemSolved, USA TODAY
Health & wellness: How can organizations offer benefits in 2021? Ask HR
Informational interview: How do I ask for one without sounding awkward? Ask HR
Q: If an employee’s spouse already has health insurance coverage, can the employer request that the employee be on the spouse’s insurance rather than on the employer’s coverage? – Marilee
Taylor: Accessible, affordable health care is a high priority for employers –especially as the country addresses a major public health crisis. The answer to your question truly depends on where you work and how large your organization is.
Under the Affordable Care Act, employers with 50 or more employees are required to offer affordable health care coverage to employees and their dependents. If they do not offer health insurance, they could face financial penalties.
However, if an employee’s spouse can access health coverage through his or her own employer, organizations can take measures to encourage the spouse to utilize that other plan instead.
For example, some employers choose to implement a “spousal surcharge” – a fee to enroll a working spouse who otherwise could be covered through his or her own employer. This fee would generally be waived, however, if a spouse is unemployed or not eligible to enroll in another employer plan.
Another option is to allow spouses to enroll in the company plan as secondary coverage as long as they also enroll in their own employer’s plan.
I’ll say this, though: Before implementing any cost-saving plans, employers should carefully examine their state laws. Some have regulations that limit the surcharge plans. Organizations should also consult with legal counsel and with their state insurance commissioner for any laws, regulations, or public policy issues that may affect cost-saving plans.
Employer-sponsored health insurance provides health benefits to more than 181 million Americans. That said, it’s critical for employers to provide health care benefits that will keep their employees, families, and businesses healthy. Be well!