There is no guidebook for managing the continuous challenges of the pandemic. With the advent of the COVID-19 vaccine, you may be wondering how this new medical technology impacts employer-employee relationships.

These tips are to help job seekers as they navigate returning to work or applying for job openings. The information does not represent JEVS Human Services opinions, employment guidelines or requirements.

1. Is your company/industry requiring vaccines?

Historically, employers had the ability to mandate vaccinations. There is hesitancy built into mandating the COVID-19 vaccine because of the swift nature of the vaccine’s production. Health care industries have been able to mandate it due to the high risk posed to both the employee and patients. Other industries that are customer facing may also begin to require a vaccine. If you are uncomfortable being vaccinated it may be wise to consider an industry switch. Career Strategies is a great place to start considering your options for a post-COVID future.

2. Is my employer allowed to ask about my vaccination status? Can employers “discriminate” based on a vaccination status?

The answer is yes. Typically, vaccination is not able to be asked but due to the pandemic there is an exception to the ADA protection. This public health crisis gives employers (and others) the right to ask. This doesn’t mean you have to be vaccinated, but it also means you aren’t entitled to employment in an industry that needs vaccination.

3. Have you been vaccinated? Do you plan to be vaccinated? Do you have documentation about your exemption?

If the answer is no to all three questions, you may need to consider vaccination or an alternative career path.

If someone has a reasonable accommodation (religion, medical treatment, etc.) they are exceptions to this rule. You are not required to divulge your exact condition/diagnosis, but you are required to provide documentation from a certified medical professional stating your exemption with enough information for your employer to determine whether a reasonable accommodation is feasible.

4. Is HIPAA relevant to an employer vaccine policy?

If you are a healthcare provider, you have to adhere to HIPAA.

If you are not a healthcare provider, HIPAA does not apply to you and your employees

This includes mental health care providers only the patients are protected by HIPAA

5. ADA and companion state laws protect employees

These laws require that your employer keep health information confidential

(ie. Taking temperatures, vaccination status). You are entitled to privacy about any personal health data collected by your employer-they can’t disclose or discuss it within the organization.

6. If an employer has a vaccine policy and I have an adverse reaction, will they be liable?

It’s an OSHA reportable event if someone has a severe reaction to the vaccine. Severe vaccines reactions are rare. OSHA fines up to $13,000 only if someone dies related to COVID-19

It’s important to take charge of your health and discuss the vaccine with your healthcare provider individually.

7. How do state laws impact the COVID-19 regulations and guidelines?

CDC guidelines have been adopted by many state and local officials. It is actually the State Departments of Health (PA, NJ and DE) that direct the regulations. Philadelphia is obligated to follow the Philadelphia Dept of Health. Good news is they all follow the CDC Guidelines.

8. Can an employer require return to the office based on an employee’s vaccination status?

No, but they can require it if there is no reasonable accommodation for the employee to do the job proficiently. Ask yourself is return to the office a necessity or a convenience? Industries such as Manufacturing, healthcare, retail, etc. are fields where a vaccine and in-person work are necessities.

9. If a customer site requires the vaccine what does this mean for employees who visit this site?

The employee must be vaccinated and carry vaccination card to gain access to any site with this requirement. Not being upfront about your vaccination status could damage customer relations

10. Will COVID-19 change management styles?

Management styles were already slowly changing from “bodies in the office” to trusting employees to get the job done based on productivity goals and other metrics. This process of change has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some managers will really fight this change because of the need to “supervise” employees in office 9-5, but overall the culture is shifting from physical presence to trusting employee performance and productivity. If your company prefers physical supervision, and you prefer a trusting, productivity-based supervision perhaps it’s time to seek out another employer with a different management style.

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Posted in Blog JEVS Program: Career Strategies