COVID-19 and Business Law in Minnesota

by Derek Thooft

Running a business in a pandemic is challenging. The newest challenge is what do with the vaccines. Can you require your employees to get the vaccine? What should you do if you’re not requiring your employees to get the vaccine or you yourself are not planning to get the vaccine? Thooft Law is here to protect your business from COVID-19 related litigation.

Can you require employees to get the vaccine? The simple answer is yes. Employers are allowed to require their employees to take safety measures to ensure a safe work space. However, Employees can refuse based on legitimate disabilities and religious beliefs. Employers are required to offer reasonable accommodations in these cases. A reasonable accommodation might be wearing a mask or working from home. What is reasonable will differ business to business.

If there is no legitimate disability or religious belief what can you do? The most extreme option would be to fire them. This would likely be allowed under the law, however it increases the likelihood of  litigation and substantial legal fees.

A less extreme option would be to require those who refuse to get vaccinated to work from home. Society’s view on allowing employees to work from home has altered over the last year. Before the pandemic employers viewed allowing workers to work from home as a waste of money. The belief was employees could not be productive from home. The pandemic has proved that assumption to be wrong. Depending on the type of business you operate this may be an option.

Another option would be to offer an incentive to get vaccinated and require those that refuse to sign a waiver. The incentive could be a bonus, extra paid time off, etc. Having employees that refuse to sign a waiver would provide you with a level of protection from a potential employee lawsuit. Depending on the type of business you operate it may also be advisable to have customers sign a waiver acknowledging individuals within your company are not vaccinated and that they assume the risk. These waivers are in no way bullet proof from litigation but they do offer some protection.

If you are not requiring your employees and especially if you yourself are not getting vaccinated it is advisable to have waiver contracts drafted for your employees and patrons to sign. It is also advisable to leave other safety requirements in place such as mask mandates and social distancing in order to avoid litigation if you are not going to require vaccinations.

No matter your views on the vaccinations we at Thooft Law are here to protect you and your business from potential litigation. Please contact us before you make any decision or take any action as this is a delicate area of law that needs to be carefully navigated around. We can be contacted.