Employers can require you to get vaccinated without violating federal law

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — If you’re heading back into the workplace for the first time since the pandemic hit, your boss can legally make you get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Inside Eggxactly Breakfast and Deli in Whitehaven, masks are still required for employees and customers.

“We don’t know if all of our customers are going to be vaccinated. We want to make sure that not only is our customer base is healthy and safe, but our staff is healthy and safe,” said Adrena Jackson, co-owner of Eggxactly Breakfast and Deli.

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Under new guidance from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Jackson could require her employees to get vaccinated. Instead, she and her husband got vaccinated first, and they’re encouraging their staff to do the same.

“We wanted them to see us vaccinated and no side effects and doing well,” said Jackson.

The latest federal guidance says employers can also offer incentives to get the vaccine as long as the incentives are “not coercive.”

Jackson said they’re offering paid time off for employees who get the vaccine.

“If they’re having side effects or anything, they can still take off, and we’ll still get them paid,” said Jackson.

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University of Memphis Economist Dr. John Gnuschke said this updated guidance is a good thing, especially for businesses that interact with people for close contact services like retail, universities, and restaurants.

“The employers have got to protect their customers, and they’ve got to protect their other employees, so there’s a two-edge sword - it may be inconvenient for new employees, but it’s certainly going to be more convenient for the customers,” said Dr. Gnuschk.

FOX13 reached out to the Memphis Restaurant Association about this guidance, and the president said its membership has varied opinions on the subject.

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Some major chains are already offering incentives. For example, McDonald’s workers at the corporate headquarters and restaurants will get up to four hours of paid time off to get vaccinated.

You can read more about the federal guidance here.