The COVID vaccine rollout began in December with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issuing guidelines that generally give employers the green light to mandate employees to get the vaccine. These are certain exceptions based on an individual’s religious beliefs as well as for individuals with a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Certain industries may be more prone to require vaccinations, such as health care and senior living facilities (assisted living, nursing homes), or other businesses whose employees have been on the front lines of this pandemic and are at greater risk or who present a risk to others.
Employers need to weigh their desire and obligation to provide a safe working environment against the potential issues regarding compensability under Workers’ Compensation laws if workers experience serious side effects from the vaccine. According to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the most common adverse reactions are injection-site reactions, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, and fever. The vaccine comes with a warning against administering it to anyone with a history of severe allergic reactions to vaccines or allergies to any of the ingredients in the vaccine.
The question of whether Workers’ Compensation laws apply to harm and side effects allegedly caused by COVID-19 vaccinations will vary case-by-case and state-by-state. It is possible that state systems could cover injuries suffered as a result of employees’ reactions to a COVID-19 vaccination, particularly if an employer mandated that its employees receive the vaccinations. Factors contributing to Workers Compensation applying include whether an employer encouraged the vaccination, whether the vaccination occurred at work or was paid for by the employer, and whether the vaccination served a business purpose.
An attorney who weighed in on the issue of compensability under Workers’ Compensation and the COVID-mandated vaccine explained that “an employer-mandated vaccine is considered a part of work and, therefore, under most state laws, an adverse reaction would be covered by Workers’ Compensation. In an article in Business Insurance, one attorney stated that “even if the employer does not mandate the vaccine but encourages it, and the worker suffers a vaccine-related injury, that too could also be considered a compensable injury in certain states, such as California.”
Whether we will see an uptick of Workers’ Compensation claims as a result of adverse reactions among employees because of the COVID vaccine is still too early to tell. What’s important is that employers keep track of employees who have been inoculated – both with the initial shot and the secondary shot. Also, employers should keep track of those who have opted out of the vaccine for religious reasons or due to a disability.
Manchester Specialty Programs specializes in providing agents and brokers with totally integrated business insurance solutions, including Workers’ Compensation, to meet the needs of Home Care, Allied Health and Human/Social Services organizations. For more information about how our products and services can help protect your insureds, please contact us at 855.972.9399.