As COVID-19 vaccinations become increasingly available to residents of Connecticut, Governor Ned Lamont recently announced that he will be ordering the relaxation of a number of COVID-19 protocols.  One such protocol has forced the closure or reduced staffing in office buildings around the State.  While the return to full operations provides some hope that an end to this pandemic is in sight, it simultaneously raises employment law issues for affected businesses.  Perhaps the most important question for employers is whether to require their employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, strongly encourage employees to receive the vaccine, or take no action at all.  

The question as to whether an employer may legally require its employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19 is a qualified, “yes.”  Subject to exceptions for legitimate health reasons and religious objections, employers may mandate that employees receive the vaccine.  However, the ability to mandate vaccination does not make it the correct choice for all, or even most, employers.  Employers need to consider norms within their industry, whether a vaccine is required to conduct business, the demographics of their workforce and the potential challenges in mandating the vaccine when considering its vaccination policy.  

For most employers, the proper course will be to strongly encourage the vaccine per CDC recommendations.  In fact, a recent survey from the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 55% of employers were uncertain about whether to mandate employee vaccinations, but 81% plan to strongly encourage vaccinations.  Employers may also implement measures to reward employees for vaccination, including paid time off to get the vaccine or even bonuses.  However, employers must take care to avoid discrimination claims by employees who are unable to receive the vaccine for health reasons or refuse to receive it on religious grounds.  Employers are also permitted to ask whether employees have been vaccinated, although employers may not inquire about any other health information during such inquiry.  

No matter the course of action an employer decides upon, it is important to communicate clearly with employees and establish a written policy.  Employers should also reinforce the message that employees should continue to wear masks, observe social distancing recommendations and continue frequent hand-washing to reduce potential transmissions.  For more information, please contact Daniel B. Fitzgerald ( or another BW attorney.

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