Working in a five-story office building in downtown Worcester, Mark Borenstein said he appreciates his employer’s targeted approach to bringing people back to the office in-person now that COVID restrictions are being lifted.
“We’ve staggered our schedules, so folks are able to feel safe when they come back into the office,” Borenstein said.
Worcester employment attorney Benjamin Rudolf, a partner at the firm Murphy & Rudolf, said that “employers have a lot of discretion in making decisions about whether to require masks, whether to require vaccines.”
Employers must protect employees’ rights with respect to disabilities and religious beliefs, but beyond that, he said, they can require employees to share their vaccination status or even compel them to get vaccinated.
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“The federal EEOC, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, has issued some guidance and has indicated that, at least as of the moment, employers have the ability to require vaccines,” Rudolf said.
Instead of just requiring it, many employers are trying to find ways to help facilitate vaccination for a large number of their employees all at once.
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“To really ensure that employees, particularly shift workers, people with language barriers, have direct access to the vaccine so that they don’t have to go out and find it for themselves,” said Samantha Joseph, lead community outreach for CIC Health.
That’s where CIC Health -- a start-up that's run several mass vaccination sites in Massachusetts -- steps in.
“We can either create a special opportunity for their employees to come to one of our mass vaccination sites or mobile sites in their area, and really make it feel unique and special to them, or we can actually go on-site to the employer and offer a clinic directly in the employer’s workspace,” Joseph said.
Rudolph said that both employers and employees need to understand this is a difficult area to navigate. Bottom line, we all need to listen to each other and work with each other to make the return to work successful.