The New Jersey Department of Health has mandated, and the NJ Division on Civil Rights will enforce, employers’ rights to require its employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine before returning to the workplace.
On March 19, 2021, the State posted this FAQ and answer on its official website upholding employers’ rights to require employee vaccinations before they return to the workplace:
An employer can require that an employee receive the COVID-19 vaccine in order to return to the workplace, unless the employee cannot get the vaccine because of a disability, because their doctor has advised them not to get the vaccine while pregnant or breastfeeding, or because of a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance.
While the mandate is silent on the issues of exemptions for medical conditions like pregnancy, disability, or religious reasons, the FAQ recognizes these exceptions. In so doing, it mirrors EEOC regulations that provide for those exceptions and recognize that while pregnancy itself is not a disability, pregnant women can have pregnancy-related disabilities that may require accommodation. https://www.eeoc.gov/wysk/what-you-should-know-about-covid-19-and-ada-rehabilitation-act-and-other-eeo-laws
New Jersey employers should be aware that they may prohibit unvaccinated employees from returning to the workplace provided that there is no other available reasonable accommodation that would mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission, for individuals who decline vaccination because of a disability, pregnancy, breastfeeding, or a sincerely held religious belief. In many instances, telework may remain the most viable reasonable accommodation. Facemasks and social distancing may also provide a reasonable alternative to working at the office.
Employers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania with questions or who may be facing COVID-19 related challenges should contact our Princeton and Philadelphia team of employment lawyers: Tamara Grimm at (215) 461-3306 or firstname.lastname@example.org; John Morgenstern at (215) 461-3301 or email@example.com; or Jaime Duguay at (215) 461-3314 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by: Jaime L. Duguay, Esq.