Employers Must Tell OSHA Of Employees’ Adverse Reactions To Mandated Vaccinations

Some teenagers and young adults who received COVID-19 vaccines experienced heart inflammation, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory group reported. [Photo courtesy OSHA/U.S. Dept. Of Labor]

By Terri Jo Neff

Business owners thinking of requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment may want to consider the latest advisory from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

According to OSHA, an employee’s adverse reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine is recordable on the company’s OSHA recordkeeping log if the reaction stems from a work-related, mandated vaccination and the incident meets at least one other recording criteria, such as time away from work, medical treatment beyond basic first aid, or restricted work duties or job transfer.

Despite the advisory to employers, OSHA and other federal agencies have announced efforts to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations in the workplace. That is why OSHA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Labor, does not require employers to report an employee’s adverse reaction to a recommended vaccination, even if the employer pays for or arranges for the vaccination.

OSHA is exercising its enforcement discretion to only require the recording of adverse effects to required vaccines at this time,” the website reads, adding that the vaccination “must be truly voluntary. For example, an employee’s choice to accept or reject the vaccine cannot affect their performance rating or professional advancement. An employee who chooses not to receive the vaccine cannot suffer any repercussions from this choice.”

In a related matter, OSHA has weighed in on employers requiring employees to sign liability waivers in the event of exposure in the workplace to the SARS virus which causes COVID-19. While the agency does not take a position for or against waivers, its website makes clear that the existence of a waiver does not preclude an employee’s right to file an Occupational Safety and Health Act complaint.

“The worker continues to have the right to file a safety or health complaint under section 8(f) and/or a retaliation complaint under section 11(c), regardless of any language contained in the waiver.”

The OSHA website also provides employers and employees with information about the requirement for reporting in-patient COVID-19 hospitalizations stemming from workplace exposure. Such reporting is only required if the hospitalization occurs within 24 hours of the exposure, according to the website.