Confused about whether you can require your employees to get vaccinated for Covid-19 in Connecticut? Read on …..

By: Attorney Beth N. Mercier

On January 13, 2022, in the case of Biden v. Missouri, et al, 595 U. S. ____ (2022) the United States Supreme Court blocked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) vaccine mandate for private companies with 100+ employees.  

Relying on the Supreme Court’s decision, a federal district judge in Texas issued an injunction on January 22, 2022 temporarily blocking enforcement of the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for all federal employers, employees, and contractors.  The Government has appealed the injunction as it believes that the federal employee mandate is based on sound legal precedent.  

 But the Supreme Court’s recent decision did NOT include most health care workers in the United States.  Health care workers who treat Medicare and Medicaid patients must have received their first dose of either the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines by January 28, 2022 and their second dose, if applicable, by February 28, 2022.  In addition, the vaccination mandate applies to employees, students, trainees, clinical workers, non-clinical workers and volunteers as well as the individuals who provide treatment or services at facilities such as hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, dialysis facilities, home health agencies and long-term care facilities.  The facilities must have 100% vaccination coverage or they will be removed from Medicare and Medicaid programs.  Thirty and sixty-day grace periods may be allowed to providers if more than 80% of their employees are vaccinated by the first deadline.

In addition, pursuant to state law, many Connecticut state employees are still required to be vaccinated– or tested on a weekly basis if they  claim an exemption from vaccination, including staff of childcare facilities, staff at pre K through grade 12 schools, and staff at healthcare facilities. State of Connecticut employees at long-term care facilities and state hospitals must be vaccinated and do not have the option of claiming an exemption.  This also applies to contract workers who regularly visit state hospitals and long-term care facilities.  Further, contractors must verify vaccination and testing status of any workers whom they supply to state agencies, childcare facilities and school boards.

  Most important, the Supreme Court decision does not prevent an individual employer from making its own decision to impose a vaccine requirement on its workforce. Many employers have already put vaccine mandates in place.  Under Connecticut law, private employers can generally mandate vaccine requirements if they offer reasonable accommodations in response to an employee’s claim of exemption due to a disability or a protected religious belief.  The Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) enforces employment discrimination laws that include protecting employees who seek an accommodation based on their disability or religion.  Employers should discuss accommodations (such as working remotely, testing on a weekly basis and mask wearing) with employees to determine whether the exemption requests can be granted without imposing an undue hardship to the employer’s business, employees and consumers.  

There are both pros and cons to requiring vaccine mandates. Advocates for mandates note improved productivity, lower expenses concerning sick employees and the ability to reopen offices. The negatives to requiring vaccinations are increased administrative costs related to documentation and testing, as well as employee retention issues.  The employer can weigh the issues and determine what works best for its business in deciding whether to mandate vaccinations.

If you have any questions regarding vaccine mandates, please call MKRB at 860-522-1243.  

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Michelson, Kane, Royster & Barger P.C.

At Michelson, Kane, Royster & Barger P.C., our goal is to provide our clients with the advice and representation they need in order to meet their legal and practical objectives. Our team is experienced, collaborative, knowledgeable, and friendly. Several of our award-winning attorneys play key roles in construction organizations, and even help to shape the laws that affect the construction industry in Connecticut. Let us put our experience to work for you.