New Jersey has confirmed that employers can mandate their employees be vaccinated for COVID-19. This move aligns New Jersey with federal guidance previously issued by the EEOC. Other states, such as California, have also issued similar guidance and the trend is expected to continue.
Consistent with federal guidance from the EEOC, the New Jersey guidance provides that employers may require employees to be vaccinated to be present on the worksite, however, employers must provide reasonable accommodations for employees who: (i) have a disability, (ii) have been advised not to get the vaccine while pregnant or breastfeeding, or (iii) who will not get the vaccine due to sincerely held religious beliefs. Note, however, that if no reasonable accommodation can be provided, an employer can enforce its policy of excluding unvaccinated employees from the workplace.
Importantly, the guidance also confirms that employers may request medical documentation to confirm a disability or medical condition. Employers should be sure to follow all state and federal requirements in requesting such information and must treat the information as confidential.
While this guidance paves the way for New Jersey employers to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for their workforce, there are several considerations before implementing such a policy. At the time of this writing, there remain several unanswered questions, practical considerations, and potential liability concerns. We have previously discussed federal guidance and vaccine policy considerations here and here.
If you need assistance creating or implementing a vaccine policy, or managing employee requests for accommodations or exemptions from such policies, Reed Smith’s Labor and Employment team is available to assist.