Fact check: Yes, employers can require that workers receive the COVID-19 vaccine

The claim: Employers can require their employees to receive the coronavirus vaccine and fire them if they don't

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released its first guidance on workplace coronavirus vaccination requirements Dec. 16. 

Hood Report TV took to Instagram to share the news. "Employers Can Reportedly Require Workers to Get COVID-19 Vaccine," its post read.

Western Journal also wrote about the guidelines on its website. "Employers Can Now Legally Fire You for Refusing COVID Vaccine," the headline reads.

Hood Report TV and Western Journal have not responded to requests from USA TODAY for comment.

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There are some exceptions

Employers have the legal right to mandate that their employees receive a COVID-19 vaccination, according to the guidance.

The law allows employers to set "a requirement that an individual shall not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of individuals in the workplace."

There are exceptions for employees with disabilities or "sincerely held" religious beliefs – protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII, respectively.

In those instances, employers are required to show that an unvaccinated employee poses a “significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual or others" in the workplace.

Employers that conclude an unvaccinated employee poses such a threat must try to provide a "reasonable accommodation" to the employee.

If there is no reasonable accommodation, or the accommodation places an "undue hardship" on the employer, it is lawful for the employer to "exclude the employee from the workplace," according to the guidance.

That does not mean the employer may automatically terminate the worker. Before termination, the employer most determine whether "any other rights apply" under federal anti-discrimination laws or federal, state and local laws and regulations.

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COVID-19 vaccine is being distributed in New York City.

Employees who don't receive vaccine can be fired

Helen Rella, a workplace attorney at the law firm Wilk Auslander, explained the practical implications of the guidance to CBS News

"The logical conclusion is that if no possible accommodation can be made and the employee's job requires that they be in the physical workplace – and they pose a direct threat to the safety of the workplace or others – that yes, they could be terminated," Rella said.

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Our rating: True

Based on our research, the claim that employers can require their employees to receive a coronavirus vaccine and fire them if they don't is TRUE. The latest guidance from the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission clarifies that employers may require their employees to get vaccinated, with some exceptions – including disability and religious beliefs. Though they must seek to accommodate those employees, they may not be able to do so, in which case they may bar employees from the workplace or terminate them.

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