Vax to Work | Can your Employer Require the Vaccine?

A set of needles are lined up against a bright yellow background

There are over 166 million fully vaccinated persons in the U.S.––4X the entire population of California! Yet, this is only 50.7% of the country and we’re entering a massive resurgence in infections and deaths due to the Delta variant. Employers were severely ravaged early in the pandemic when there was no way to reduce the viruses onslaught other than send their staff home to quarantine. With the availability of highly effective vaccines, employers are becoming firm in their position to require employees to pull up their sleeves and get back to work. But can employers force workers to choose between a job or a jab?

Short Answer, Yes

Employers may legally mandate vaccines, including the emergency authorized COVID-19 vaccine. And the federal authority figure on workplace laws publicly notes, “Federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19, so long as employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other EEO considerations.”

With EEO clearance, companies such as The Walt Disney Company, Walmart, Goldman Sachs, and Delta Airlines have all notified their employees they are or will soon be required to get the vaccine. Refusal to comply may result in losing your job­­ as seen when CNN terminated 3 unvaccinated employees after returning to the office.

What About an Exemption?

The EEOC left some room for employees to push back against vaccine mandates, but it will require a valid reason within the law, such as a personal health problem. However, the Center for Disease Control recommends COVID-19 vaccines for most people, including those with many medical conditions. People with underlying conditions are at high risk for severe complications from COVID-19, wherein the vaccine may reduce those risks. Of course, always seek the guidance of a professional medical provider to determine whether your condition should warrant an exemption.

Expect More Employers to Require the Vaccine

In April 2020, a Gallup poll found 70% of the workforce were remote. Today, those numbers are quickly shrinking as employers require their workforce to return to the office. And since employers are obligated to ensure safe conditions, many employers are mandating vaccines. New York City recently announced all city workers will be vaccinated. California was quick to follow. “As the state’s largest employer––we’re leading by example. Vaccines are the solution. We encourage local governments and other businesses to follow suit,” announced California Governor Newsom. While these massive employers are making waves, some employers remain on the sidelines, citing concerns about requiring a vaccine without full FDA approval. However, this is a quickly passing excuse, with some employers making proactive announcements, such as the City of San Francisco, where all city workers are to be fully vaccinated 10 months after full FDA approval.

And as hotly anticipated, the FDA approved Pfizer-BioNTech, the first COVID-19 vaccine for individuals 16 years and older. With this clearance, expect many more employers to proceed with vaccine mandates.

Access More Information

If you’re seeking more information about how the University is responding to COVID-19, along with vaccination information and requirements, please visit

For information on COVID-19 in general, please visit the CDC website at

About the Author | Thomas Guzowski is the Assistant Director of Marketing, Communications, and Events. He regularly writes for the Office of Career & Professional Development regarding a variety of career-related topics. Outside of work, you’ll find him reading the news, books, and falling into a rabbit hole.
By Thomas Guzowski, U of R Employee
Thomas Guzowski, U of R Employee Assistant Director of Marketing Thomas Guzowski, U of R Employee