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EEOC, labor law professor say employers can require COVID-19 vaccinations

Gov. Edwards teams up with spelling bee champion Zaila Avant-garde on vaccination PSA’s
Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 6:52 PM CDT
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Fifty-five percent of eligible El Paso County residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Health care worker holds a syringe and vial of vaccine.(KKTV)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - President Joe Biden announced his administration is requiring civilian federal government workers and some federal contractors to prove they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or be subject to universal masking, get tested weekly and physically distance from other workers and be subject to restrictions on government travel.

And the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says, “The federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

Joel Friedman is a Tulane University labor law professor. He agrees with the EEOC.

“There’s no legal impediment to any company in America private or public in requiring vaccinations. This is a political question. Do you want to offend your base, do you want to offend your clientele, your employees,” he said?

Still, the EEOC says in some circumstances employers would be required to provide reasonable accommodations for certain employees.

Friedman detailed the two categories of workers. “People who are disabled and are covered and protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. They may have a disability that prevents them from having injections in which case they could request an accommodation,” said Friedman. “The second category the same kind of a thing are people with a religious belief or practice that precludes them from being injected.”

But there are limits to such accommodations.

“As long as that accommodation is both reasonable and does not impose an undue hardship on the company,” said Friedman.

The Kaiser Family Foundation which does research on health care issues says the federal government’s authority to institute a general vaccine mandate is unclear and has not yet been tested in the courts.

“It’s right in that there haven’t been any legal challenges yet to it,” said Friedman.

However, he expects there will be litigation.

“I don’t have any doubt that these legal challenges will fail in front of any court that applies the law,” said Friedman.

Local governments are looking at the issue.

In New Orleans, Mayor Latoya Cantrell’s administration said the city government currently has 4,105 employees and 71% are vaccinated. The administration says it wants to see that number reach 100%.

And on whether the city will implement a vaccination requirement, Cantrell’s Communication Director Beau Tidwell said in an email that all options are on the table, and this is one element under consideration.

Some huge corporations in America have made up their minds. Google, Facebook, and Netflix will require workers returning to the office to be vaccinated.

Friedman said, “A they have the right to do it, ‘B’ it’s great, they’re taking leadership.”

As Louisiana battles low vaccination rates and surging COVID-19 cases, Governor John Bel Edwards made two PSA’s with Zaila Avant-garde, the 14-year-old national Spelling Bee Champion. Both say they are fully vaccinated. “F-r-e-e-d-o-m, Freedom,” said Zaila Avant-garde in spelling the word.

Edwards in the video said, “And I’m fully vaccinated.”

And Avant-garde replied, “I’m fully vaccinated.”

Edwards in the PSA said, “Freedom is what we’ll get back if we all get the vaccine.”

To watch click: https://twitter.com/LouisianaGov/status/1420784497713467402?s=20

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