There is understandably a lot of confusion about where businesses stand with Covid-19 vaccine mandates. Although the Supreme Court struck down President Biden’s order that all companies employing over 100 people must require their workers to be vaccinated, that doesn’t mean that individual businesses don’t have the right to make that decision for their own employees—at least not in New Jersey. However, if you choose to require your employees to be vaccinated, you still have to adhere to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD).
New Jersey Allows Covid-Related Mandates
About a dozen states, including Texas, Florida, and Montana, prohibit private employers from issuing mandates requiring their employees to get a Covid vaccine or to wear a mask. In New Jersey, there is no such mandate. Private businesses are free to issue health-related rules to employees but are not required to. Only workers in health care and high-risk congregate settings and state employees are required by state law to be vaccinated. However, if you do issue a mandate, you have to provide reasonable accommodations in certain situations in order to be in compliance with LAD.
Exceptions Required Under LAD
Employees requesting a vaccine exemption are protected by anti-discrimination laws just like an employee with a disability or other condition would be. You are required to provide reasonable accommodations if an employee cannot get the vaccine for one of the following reasons:
- Doctor’s explicit advice against it
- Sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance
According to the New Jersey Department of Labor, your safety and the safety of your employees, clients, and customers are factors in deciding whether a potential accommodation would be reasonable. You must base your decisions on scientific evidence and guidance from local, state, and federal authorities. Reasonable accommodations might include:
- Allowing the employee to work remotely
- Allowing the employee to work in a manner that would reduce the risk of harm to others
- Providing the employee with personal protective equipment
If these accommodations are not possible in your workplace, you can exclude the unvaccinated employee from the physical workplace.
When You Might Need a Lawyer
Covid-19 mandates have proven to be incredibly contentious across the country and in New Jersey. If you feel strongly that a vaccine mandate is important for the health and safety of your employees and customers, make sure you handle requests for accommodations properly to protect your business from a discrimination lawsuit. Contact business attorney Frank Steinberg online or by phone at 908-685-0600 for more information about your rights and responsibility as an employer in New Jersey.