EEOC answers key ‘vax’/workplace issue, but it’ll take time for others to be decided

USA Today headline:

178 health care workers suspended from Houston Methodist hospital system for refusing COVID-19 vaccination

Wall Street Journal headline:

Texas hospital system can require employees to get Covid-19 vaccine, judge rules … federal judge upheld Houston Methodist’s vaccine requirement and said lawsuit’s legal assertions lacked merit

Houston Chronicle headline:

153 Houston Methodist workers fired, resigned over COVID vaccine dispute

Texas Tribune headline:

Gov. Greg Abbott signs bill to punish businesses requiring customers have proof of COVID vaccination … Abbott’s signature means businesses that require so-called vaccine passports can’t get state contracts and could lose state licenses or operating permits

National Law Review headline:

EEOC issues new guidance for mandatory and voluntary COVID-19 vaccine programs

Businesses have had lots of questions about coronavirus vaccines and the workplace.

The EEOC’s recently released guidelines answer one question – can an employer demand employees get vaccinated?


“The EEOC says federal law allows an employer to demand employees are vaccinated and require proof as long as it’s kept confidential,” said Will Griffis, McCleskey Law Firm attorney who specializes in labor and employment law.

Will Griffis

Employers can also offer workers certain incentives to get the vaccine, said Griffis.

If employees cannot comply due to matters such as a disability, religious belief or pregnancy, reasonable accommodation should be made unless they impose an undue burden on the employer. Reasonable accommodations can include:

  • Wearing a mask.
  • Social distancing.
  • Modified shift.
  • Working remotely.
  • Accepting reassignment.

Employers must consider if employees are having a hard time finding a vaccine, but that hasn’t been a problem generally in the Lubbock area. 

But there are other questions for business owners:

  • What does an employer do when employees who’ve been vaccinated want to force their non-vaccinated colleagues to get the shots?
  • How much can an employer ask an employee about his or her vaccination?
  • Can an employer ask a job candidate if they’ve been vaccinated?
  • What about employees who want to work from home?

McCleskey’s Amanda Sparks Coburn – who also specializes in labor and employment law – said since the federal judge’s ruling, most other questions probably fall along the lines of normal human resources processes.

Amanda Sparks Coburn

“We’re never going to tell one of our business owners that they can or cannot do something. But we’ll always point out the potential ramifications of the policy they are contemplating,” said Coburn.

Many workers did their jobs from home during the height of the pandemic, but what does an owner do if an employee still wants to work from home because they don’t feel safe?

“In Texas, employees don’t get to dictate where they can work,” said Coburn. “You’re not entitled to work from where you want to work. Texas is an at-will employment state, meaning that both the employer and the employee have the right to terminate the employment at any time with or without reason. In an at-will employment state, both parties are entitled to find a better fit at any time. If an employee really wants to work from home, they need to find a job where the employer allows it.”

McCleskey attorneys want to make it clear this is a snapshot of where the business/vaccination issue is as of June 24. It’s an evolving legal matter and is subject to change as the policies and situations make their way through our country’s appellate court system.

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