Can Employers in Washington State Require Employees to Vaccinated Against Covid-19?

As vaccination against Covid-19 rolls out, employers want to know if they can require employees to get vaccinated. In Washington State, the short answer is, yes, but employers must do so in ways that comply with wage-and-hour rules, and other rules regarding employment. For example, requiring vaccination means the employee’s travel time, and time spent receiving the vaccine, are part of their work hours, and therefore such time is part of the employee’s paid time.  Not surprisingly, an employee cannot be prohibited from  using sick leave to recuperate from side effects they may have from the vaccine.  Depending on the needs of the business, some advance notice by the employee of their vaccine appointment may be appropriate.  If you are reluctant to require vaccination, an alternative option may be to encourage and incentivize employees to get vaccinated.  All in all, if you are a Washington employer and would like a vaccinated workforce, there are options.

Fortunately, Washington’s Department of Health and Department of Labor & Industries have each issued guidance to employers.  See: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/1600/coronavirus/120-053-FAQStepsCriticalWorkersVaccination.pdf and  https://lni.wa.gov/agency/outreach/coronavirus-covid-19-vaccines-and-paid-sick-leave-common-questions

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