December 27 Tip of the Week

Reasonable Accommodations to Mandatory Vaccine Policies

By now most employers know that if they implement a mandatory vaccination policy, they must provide reasonable accommodations to employees who are unable to receive the vaccination for medical or religious reasons.  But when an employee has established eligibility for a religious or medical exemption, how do you come to a decision on a reasonable accommodation?

If your business allows for remote work, your employees who qualify for reasonable accommodations may assume that if they cannot be vaccinated, they are automatically granted permission to work from home.  Not true!  An employer does not have to provide an employee with his or her preferred accommodation, or even a choice between more than one accommodation, as long as the accommodation the employer does provide is reasonable.  If your employee has previously had performance issues while teleworking, for example, you can select a different accommodation for that employee, such as masking and testing, even if the position can be performed remotely and the employee is requesting to work from home.

Deciding on a reasonable accommodation should be an open, back and forth discussion between the employer and employee, with both parties sharing suggestions and concerns.  But ultimately the decision as to how the employee will be accommodated is up to the employer.  As long as you are providing an accommodation that is reasonable and allows the employee to perform the essential functions of their job, you are complying with the law.