With vaccines readily available, the pandemic is winding down in the United States. As a result, many employers are getting ready to ask their employees to come back to the office at least a few days a week. But there is an elephant in the room: what should employers do about employees who choose not to be vaccinated? Should employers require their employees to be vaccinated? Can employers legally require a Covid vaccine in Hawaii?
Can Employers Require Covid Vaccine in Hawaii?
Recent federal employment law updates around Covid vaccines indicate that, in general, private employers can require their employees to get the Covid-19 vaccine as long as they are in compliance with the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and other EEO Laws. These long-standing laws are in place to protect employees on the basis of religion and disability.
With the federal government opening the door to vaccine requirements, it has been left up to states to pass laws prohibiting employers from demanding that their employees be vaccinated. To date, at least 85 bills have been introduced in state legislatures that would place limits on an employer’s right to require workers to get vaccinated or to fire someone because they choose not to be. The legislation is different from state to state but almost every bill prevents employers from making vaccination a condition of employment or taking adverse actions based on an employee’s COVID-19 vaccination status.
In fact, Hawaii’s pending legislation protects current and prospective employees in that way:
House Resolution 123 and House Concurrent Resolution 146 request that the Civil Rights Commission declare that it does not support discrimination and right of access restrictions, including the denial of any service or benefit, based on Covid-19 vaccines status or immunity test results. The Resolution was referred to the House Pandemic and Disaster Preparedness Committee on March 15, 2021.
In some State proposed legislation, steep fines may be imposed on businesses, employers and individuals who would violate the laws.
Incentives vs. mandates
Many employers are choosing the carrot instead of the stick approach by incentivizing employees to get vaccinated against Covid-19 instead of requiring it to return to work. For example, large retailers like Kroger offered a $100 bonus to any employee who is fully vaccinated. In recent weeks, states have also been announcing monetary incentives to get vaccinated.
While most employers would likely prefer to reduce the risk of a Covid outbreak in their workplace by having every employee vaccinated, many are stopping short of a requirement in order to prevent worker lawsuits. In recent examples, employees have sued employers for requiring employees to get a vaccine that is not yet fully authorized by the FDA. (The three U.S. Covid-19 vaccines – Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines – are currently authorized for emergency use).
Having said that, courts have been siding with employers on Covid vaccine mandates with rulings from judges who believe that it is reasonable to mandate vaccinations during a global health crisis.
A PEO provides small businesses with many advantages that they might not otherwise be able to afford. These advantages have become even more important during this international health crisis.
When small business owners form a partnership with Makai HR they:
- Gain peace of mind that they are complying with all of Hawaii’s labor laws, which is especially important when decisions are being made about how to handle a health crisis.
- Can provide comprehensive health care plans that allow your employees to go to the doctor for treatment and testing.
- Get help with workers’ compensation claims.
We are also here to support your business if you are working remotely:
- Our cloud-based platform means that your employees can manage their HR needs through a computer, tablet or phone, making it easier for them to work from home.
- Our cloud-based HRIS platform means that your HR team can manage HR remotely if they are sick or everyone is working remotely.
Pro tip: this is a good time to encourage all employees to update to Direct Deposit to reduce in person bank transactions and continue timely payroll payments. Do not delay. Contact us today to get started!