Companies can require workers entering the workplace to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to recent U.S. government guidance.

Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

As many Americans prepare to head back to the office, companies are hammering out policies on the extent to which they will require, or strongly encourage, employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The bottom line is that companies are legally permitted to make employees get vaccinated, according to recent guidance from the federal agency that enforces workplace discrimination laws, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  (See link for article)



  • Employers can require employers to get vaccinated and offer incentives to do so.
  • Federal laws do not prevent companies from requiring employees to provide documentation or other confirmation of vaccination, though they must keep that information confidential. 
  • If an employee will not get vaccinated because of a disability or a sincerely held religious belief, the agency said, he or she may be entitled to an accommodation that does not pose an “undue hardship” on the business. 
  • The guidelines recommend employers to keep in mind that some individuals or demographic groups may face more barriers to receiving a vaccine than others.
  • Private companies, government entities such as school boards and the Army can require vaccinations for entry, service and travel, a practice that follows a 1905 Supreme Court ruling in Jacobson v. Massachusetts that allowed states to require people to be vaccinated against smallpox. That decision paved the way for public schools to require proof of vaccinations from students.
  • The reason this isn’t a HIPAA violation is because it covers what your health care provider can share with others, rather than employers and what they can ask for. 
  • In South Carolina, state agencies can encourage employees to get vaccinated, but they cannot require them to be. They also cannot require proof of vaccination status as a condition for receiving government services or gaining access to any government buildings, following an executive order.
  • Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas signed a law prohibiting businesses or government entities in the state from requiring digital proof of vaccination, joining states such as Arkansas and Florida.


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