This means that an organization will likely be at odds with federal law if it requires its employees, students or other members to get a Covid-19 vaccine that is being distributed under emergency use authorization.
State law often prohibits retaliating against an employee for refusing to participate in a violation of federal law. Organizations that require Covid-19 vaccination in violation of federal law may face lawsuits under these state laws not only to block the policy but also for damages and attorneys’ fees. Such potentially costly lawsuits can be avoided by refraining from adopting policies that require vaccination or penalize members for choosing not to be vaccinated.
Organizations are free to encourage vaccinations through internal communications, through educational events, and through other measures to urge employees to be vaccinated. They can take these measures so long as: (1) they are not viewed as coercive, (2) the organization makes clear the decision regarding whether to receive the vaccine is voluntary, and (3) the measures comply with the requirements in the EUAs and the related regulations for these products.
People across the world have had their lives upended during the last year. The urgency to return to normalcy is felt deeply by many. As decision-makers at organizations decide on their Covid-19 vaccination policy, they should be careful to not let this passion lead the organization to run afoul of the law.