In Focus: Vaccines in the Dental Office

The American Dental Association (ADA) recently published frequently asked questions (FAQs) about vaccine mandates for employees of dental practices. Given the challenges of operating a dental practice in the new normal, it takes a lawyer who represents dental professionals to protect your interests. Let’s take a look at key takeaways from the ADA’s FAQs on vaccines in the dental office.

Can a healthcare employer require employees to get Covid-19 vaccines?

The ADA notes that a vaccine requirement must be job-related, a business necessity, and no more intrusive than necessary. Dental practices meet this standard with respect to COVID-19 given that an individual with COVID-19 poses a direct threat to others.

Moreover, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently published updated guidelines on vaccine mandates in the workplace. In short, employers, including dental practices, can require all employees entering the workplace to be vaccinated, as long as the requirement adheres to applicable federal law and state laws.

For example, employees who have a known medical condition that makes them ineligible for the Covid-19 vaccine may be entitled to reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Also, employees who have a genuinely held religious belief or practice that conflicts with such a requirement may be entitled to an accommodation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

While these federal anti-discrimination laws only apply to employers with 15 or more employees. However, state equal employment opportunity laws apply to most employers. If you have questions about vaccine mandates and accommodations under applicable laws, talk to an experienced attorney.

What proof of vaccination can employers request?

Dental practice should not request any information that reveals any medical information about the employee other than vaccination status. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided vaccination cards for such purposes; however, any information provided by the employee must remain confidential.

Are employers required to provide paid time off for employees to get a shot, or pay for time off in the case of side effects?

If staff members are required to be vaccinated, the practice is responsible for paying any time the employee is required to spend off-duty hours under federal and state wage and hour laws.

If staff members experience side effects that keep them out for a day, the ADA also recommends providing paid time off.

What if a staff member refuses to be vaccinated?

If an employee refuses to get vaccinated, find out why. If the refusal is based on a claimed disability or religious belief, determine whether a reasonable accommodation is feasible. While there have been reports of employees being terminated for refusing a shot, you cannot retaliate against a staff member who exercises their legal right to an accommodation.

What if a staff member suffers an adverse reaction?

If a dental practice requires employees to be vaccinated, adverse reactions would generally be compensable to them under state workers’ compensation laws.

Why This Matters

Employer vaccine mandates in the workplace are likely to become more widespread once they receive final FDA approval. In the meantime, if you have concerns about implementing a vaccine mandate at your dental practice, consult with a lawyer who works with medical professionals.