Our New “Normal”: COVID-19 Vaccinations in the Workplace

Our New “Normal”: COVID-19 Vaccinations in the Workplace

Samantha Badr


While some can’t get their hands on the COVID-19 vaccine soon enough, others are dreading it. To some it’s a magic potion that will bring us back to pre-COVID times, but to others, it’s poison. Everyone has their reason for wanting or not wanting the vaccine, creating a heated debate in many workplaces.

A new rule implemented Dec.16,2020 by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), however, leaves little room for discussion. The EEOC rule maintains that employers can encourage or even require COVID-19 vaccinations. That said, any new policy must comply with workplace laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

I spoke with a few different people for their opinion and as you may have guessed – workplace, age, and gender all seem to have varying influences on peoples’ views on the COVID-19 vaccine. Perhaps more concerning is that employers themselves – including those in the health care industry – don’t have clear guidelines on how to proceed. Much like the beginning of the pandemic when many questions did not have answers, employers are scrambling to figure out whether or not they should mandate vaccinations moving forward, as the world tries to shift into slowly re-opening businesses again.

The COVID-19 vaccine comes with a laundry list of both pros and cons. For starters, peace of mind. In the healthcare field, where many hospitals were promoting a 95 percent success rate of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, a doctor who got the vaccine might feel better knowing he or she is less likely to catch the virus or bring it home to his or her family after a long shift of managing countless patients. A nurse that I spoke with said many hospitals are encouraging staff members to get vaccinated since they’re working with high-risk patients on a daily basis. She told me that her hospital did not necessarily require the vaccine, but they were encouraged to receive both doses.

A waiter that I spoke to said the restaurant industry appeared to be leaving the decision up to workers. Servers and hostesses are at greater risk of contracting the virus than kitchen workers, since they are the ones dealing with customers. While business owners want to open and make their living, they also need to protect the health and safety of their staff and customers. Requiring vaccinations for their employees would greatly ensure they are, in fact, in good health. Not only that, if restaurants mandated vaccinations for employees, indoor dining could resume sooner. A massive amount of sales come from indoor dining, which was banned in New York as of mid-January. If restaurant workers were vaccinated and indoor dining was given the green light, many businesses crippled by the pandemic could potentially have their livelihoods back.

While some corporate companies have made working from home “the new normal,” many employees are desperate to head back into the office. My friend’s dad, for example, thrived on his daily routine working downtown at the office. That’s the way it was for the better part of three decades. When everything shut down in March 2020, water cooler talk, lunch outings and post-work gym sessions were no longer options. Adjusting to a new schedule all from home and the lack of social interaction caused a severe depression for him. Daily, face-to-face communication in offices boost employee morale and increase productivity across the board. People are simply tired of being confined in their home and I don’t blame them. If offices reopened only for those who were vaccinated, those who wanted to return might have more of an incentive to get the vaccines.

One of the most widely reported cons to the COVID-19 vaccine seems to be the fact that there is still a 5 percent chance that COVID-19 can be contracted. Getting vaccinated doesn’t eliminate the face mask requirement. People would still have to practice social distancing. Everyone would still bear the risk of the virus every day. Not mandating the COVID-19 vaccine could potentially pose a huge liability for employers. As many HR professionals know, employers are required to provide a safe work environment under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). If employees get very sick, they can possibly sue their employer for violating OSHA laws. Another con of the vaccine is that it is extremely new and absolutely no long-term research has been done. Many people are holding off on getting the vaccine because there are still so many unanswered questions about the long-term effects.

In conclusion, there are always advantages and disadvantages to any new policy. COVID-19 is not a situation to take lightly, as proven in the mess that was 2020. I know that everyone can agree that they want life to resume to normal as quickly as possible, but at what cost to the employees and employers? Even if an organization mandates a vaccine, there are always going to be exceptions, such as religious and disability reasons. Employers are still bearing the cost of being creative in ensuring a safe workplace. That could mean moving staff around to places with less human contact or carrying the financial burden of requiring un-vaccinated staff to be consistently tested. On the plus side, the more vaccinations, the more businesses can reopen.

Although it seems most employers are still navigating how to handle the COVID-19 vaccine, making the right choice is crucial because COVID-19 has a way of being non-discriminatory – and that is the worst con of all.


For more information I have attached an article from the CDC that sheds some light on the science behind both COVID vaccines: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/index.html

Also attached is an article from the EEOC that can provide insight on COVID-19 vaccinations in regards to EEO laws: https://www.eeoc.gov/wysk/what-you-should-know-about-covid-19-and-ada-rehabilitation-act-and-other-eeo-laws


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