The Pfzer vaccine, one of three approved by the FDA for emergency use, go the full stamp of approval on August 23rd, with Moderna finishing up paperwork to ask the FDA to do the same. This move has prompted many states and companies to move forward with mandating the vaccines as a requirement for working for them.
From a business standpoint, many companies are hesitant to force their employees to get the vaccines. When vaccines were first rolling out, many employers were hoping to gently nudge their employees into complying and getting the vaccine of their own volition. With the surge in the Delta variant and the approval of the Pfzer vaccine, their patience has worn out. In just two days, New Jersey joined states like Oregon and Washington in mandating vaccines for all of their education workers or be weekly tested. Companies like JP Morgan Chase and Goldman are requiring vaccines, or no one’s allowed back in the office.
There is obviously going to be push back on this from employees. Chief among the reasons for push back are whether employers can make this mandatory and if states have the obligation to do so. On both accounts, the answer is yes. Regarding company rules, if it’s not discriminatory against a race sex or religion, or any other discriminatory classes, companies can mandate them. Therefore, most companies when they put mandates in place are allowing for a verified medical or religious exemption that’s consistent with state laws.
As for states forcing it, a Supreme Court case from 1905 dealing with Smallpox is the precedent. In Jacobson v Massachusetts, the state was one of several at the time with mandatory vaccination laws in the interest of public health. The Court ruled: “The police power of a State embraces such reasonable regulations relating to matters completely within its territory, and not affecting the people of other States, established directly by legislative enactment, as will protect the public health and safety.” This case has also been cited for other medical related cases during the pandemic.
Companies have an obligation to protect their businesses and customers. Masks and remote working have done only so much. Requiring a vaccine or go through multiple testing is now the step companies are taking to return to some semblance of normal.