Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
Can an employer require that employees attending a company holiday party be vaccinated?
After almost two years of working remotely, employees are probably looking forward to the annual holiday party. Twinkling lights, ugly sweaters, and maybe even a white elephant gift exchange.
But remember we aren’t out of the pandemic yet, and there are a few things employers will want to keep in mind when planning a holiday gathering.
- Under state and federal OSHA regulations, employers have a general duty to employees to maintain a safe workplace, and this includes preventing the spread of COVID-19.
- Additionally, state and local laws and ordinances may limit your ability to host a gathering of people, depending on size and vaccine status.
- And just a note: although enforcement of the federal OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard regarding vaccinations is currently on hold pending a ruling by the court, enforcement could be in effect by the time holiday events take place, so you’ll want to keep an eye on those developments.
As a result of these rules and regulations, it is no surprise that clients are asking if it is okay to have a vaccine requirement for employees to attend the holiday party.
While generally speaking, it is okay to have a vaccine requirement to attend any workplace function, including the holiday party, you’ll want to keep in mind that accommodations may be necessary for those who are unable to get the vaccine based on a medical contraindication or sincerely held religious belief.
Although it is just a social event, employees could gain valuable access to co-workers, managers, and company leadership by attending these events and exclusion from these events could result in claims of discrimination.
To prevent these claims, allow for employees to request an accommodation well in advance of the holiday party and ensure that you engage in the interactive process with them. Some potential accommodations might include wearing a mask during the entire event or taking a COVID test ahead of the event.
Employers might also look at alternatives to traditional holiday events. For example, consider planning an outdoor event where possible or hosting a virtual gathering, such as a cooking class or wine tasting. As with many business decisions, employers should weigh the benefits of a holiday party against the administrative logistics and other considerations of such an event.
For additional information on COVID-19 and the workplace, please visit Littler.com and continue to refer to local, state, and federal authorities for the most current information.