Matt Daus’s recently published article Should My Company Mandate and Promote Driver Vaccines? appeared in BusinessFleet’s March 22 edition.

As states allocate the vaccines in phases to different segments of the population, their availability raises questions for passenger ground transportation businesses and other organizations with commercial drivers. Some key questions are whether to require drivers to get the COVID-19 vaccine, does it matter if the drivers are employees or independent contractors, and how to conduct business if drivers are vaccinated, including whether to advertise that fact to customers.

This article offers a roadmap for transportation businesses with employee or independent contractor drivers to help navigate this rough terrain. Key insights and considerations for mandatory vaccination programs versus voluntary compliance were also addressed. Main points include:

  • Mandating vaccines: Whether a transportation business can require drivers to get the COVID vaccine depends on whether the driver is an at-will employee or a contract worker.
  • Paid time off for vaccinations: State and local laws may require employers to provide paid leaves of absence for employees to receive COVID-19 vaccines, either under traditional sick leave laws or COVID-19 specific legislation.
  • Vaccines and contractors: With respect to requiring vaccines, the terms of the contracts that create and govern the relationship between the worker and the company will dictate whether a vaccine mandate is permissible.
  • Whether to require vaccines:  In addition to ADA compliance, there are some considerations for employers before deciding whether to require employees to be vaccinated or, instead, to encourage employees to get the vaccine voluntarily on their own — including the logistics of administering a vaccine policy, the burden of managing accommodation requests, the impact on morale, and the potential for litigation.
  • Potential liability: There is potential liability for employers. Currently, guidance from the CDC and state and local health authorities does not recommend that employers require vaccinations. As noted above, the vaccines are still experimental.
  • Vaccination status as a marketing tool: It is tempting to advertise the fact that your drivers are vaccinated. However, companies should resist that temptation and carefully consider the legal ramifications of making such representations to customers directly or in advertisements to the public.

Lastly, businesses that employ drivers should carefully weigh the benefits and considerations of mandating vaccines versus encouraging drivers to get them before making any policy decisions. Employers should include input from management, human resources, employees, and legal counsel, as appropriate. Those who wish to encourage vaccines can consult CDC resources on promoting vaccination in the workplace.

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