There are federal laws to safeguard you against employment discrimination. Unfortunately, since the COVID-19 vaccine was introduced at the end of 2020, COVID vaccine discrimination has occurred. If you think you were discriminated against for refusing the vaccine, our Chicago COVID vaccine discrimination lawyer at North Suburban Legal Services would like to speak with you.
The pandemic has been with us for almost three years. After the vaccines were introduced, there were many questions about whether getting the shot should be mandated. Many employers found that some workers refused to get the vaccine when they required it. What can employers do when this happens? Some companies have put workers on leave. Others even fired them.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) notes that companies are not prohibited from mandating that their workers who enter the workplace physically must get the vaccine. However, the businesses must consider offering a ‘reasonable accommodation’ when workers will not get the vaccine for religious, medical, or pregnancy-related reasons.
The rules vary by state and community, but some companies have offered several options for complying with their vaccine policy. For example, some organizations require employees to show proof of vaccination. Others have required weekly testing to show they are negative for the virus, while others have required masks and social distancing when around others.
But some organizations have claimed that requiring tests weekly is an ‘undue hardship’ because of the logistical and financial burden. Some may decide to fire workers who will not get the vaccine unless they can show a religious or medical objection.
Workers can challenge the COVID vaccine policies in their workplace. However, the company usually has the advantage. Many judges have sided with the organizations in COVID vaccine discrimination lawsuits.
Courts have been making rulings on these complicated cases with the Americans With Disabilities Act as a basis. The belief is that a COVID vaccine mandate at work needs to be related to the specific job and consistent with the organization’s needs. The ADA states that a company can have a policy at work that mandates that a worker cannot pose a ‘direct threat’ to the safety and health of others.
If a COVID vaccination requirement screens out an employee with a disability, the company needs to show that non-vaccinated workers are a threat to the safety of others. According to the EEOC, a direct threat is a significant risk of harm that cannot be eliminated with reasonable accommodation.
The EEOC has said that organizations should review four factors to determine if there is a direct threat:
If the worker who does not get a vaccine is a direct threat to others at work, the company has to consider whether they can make a reasonable accommodation. For example, can the company have unvaccinated workers work remotely?
The ADA was an important issue when people refused to get the vaccine at work. The ADA states that the employer has to offer someone with a disability a reasonable accommodation to do their job. A reasonable accommodation is one that is not too expensive and detrimental to the company’s business.
In the case of the COVID vaccine, there are several ways that some employers have made reasonable accommodations for people who did not want to get the vaccine. The most common reasonable accommodation has been to offer periodic testing of unvaccinated workers. This policy may allow workers to continue in their position if they are not positive for the virus.
Another effective way to offer a reasonable accommodation is to allow employees to work offsite. Only some workers can qualify for this accommodation. However, letting some employees work remotely as long as COVID is a major issue is one way to keep the person in their job.
If a company fires you because you refuse to follow its policies, it has a reason to fire you. If you are fired for cause, you may not qualify for unemployment benefits. Every state defines what ‘for cause’ means in their way.
Some states can deny unemployment if you resign or are fired for misconduct. For example, companies might argue that refusing the vaccine is a voluntary resignation or a form of misconduct.
In Illinois, Governor Pritzker signed an amendment to the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act in 2021. The amendment prevents workers from using the Act to avoid COVID vaccine requirements. The amendment went into effect in June 2022. In addition, the amendment states that it is not an Act violation for the business to enforce a COVID vaccine.
If you are thinking about not getting the vaccine when your company requires it, it is prudent to talk about the case with a lawyer. A Chicago attorney who is familiar with state and federal employment laws can help you determine if there is a medical exemption or religious exemption you can use. Also, your attorney can contact your employer to increase your chances of keeping your position. Finally, if the company will not honor your exemption, the attorney can talk to you about additional legal steps.
The COVID vaccine has introduced new controversies into the employment discrimination discussion. Do you suspect you were discriminated against for not taking the COVID vaccine? Are you looking for lawyers against the COVID vaccine near me? It is essential to speak to a COVID vaccine discrimination attorney in Chicago today. Please contact North Suburban Legal Services today at (312) 909-6089 for help. You could be entitled to compensation and other remedies if your attorney can prove you were discriminated against.