The announcement that Deloitte is reversing COVID-19 vaccine mandates signals the crossroads at which many employers find themselves as society crawls towards a return to normal. As recommendations of health authorities change in response to the ebbing conditions of the pandemic throughout society at large, employers must turn their minds to their own workplaces.
Mandatory vaccination policies were implemented when the virus was at its highest inflection, but they may no longer be appropriate in the current climate. Should employers maintain their strict mandatory vaccination policies, or should they adjust course like Deloitte by reversing COVID-19 vaccine mandates? Many employers are grappling with this question now.
From our vantage point as employment lawyers, Deloitte stands out as one of the few employers which have decisively chosen to soften its mandatory vaccination stance. Other employers appear paralyzed by indecision. We have seen employers communicate cryptically with their employees that their mandatory vaccination policies will remain in place “for now” to be “re-evaluated” in time while the employer decides between removing the requirement altogether or doubling down to mandate booster shots.
In the eyes of the law, the challenge for employers is always to strike the right balance. Mandatory vaccination policies will only be seen as justifiable if their significant intrusion upon employee privacy and bodily autonomy is counterbalanced by the health and safety risks they are aimed at mitigating. As the risks subside, the justification for strict vaccination policies wanes.
Employers who discipline unvaccinated employees in such circumstances risk exposure to wrongful dismissal claims. A flexible approach that considers exemptions and alternative safety measures is advisable. The intrusiveness of the vaccination policy must always be balanced against the health and safety risks in the workplace.
It is not appropriate for an employer to disregard that balancing exercise to instead impose what it perceives to be a greater public good generally (widespread vaccination) by threatening the livelihood of its employees with punitive repercussions (unpaid suspension and termination of employment). The law requires the employer to consider the specific health and safety risks in its workplace balanced against the significant intrusion the policy represents for individual employees involved.
Whitten & Lublin’s legal team can provide insight and advice into your specific circumstances around reversing COVID-19 vaccine mandates. If you are looking for employment lawyers and would like more information about what Whitten & Lublin can do for you, please contact us online or by phone at (416) 640-2667 today.