The Americans with Disabilities Act and Healthcare Employer-Mandated Vaccinations

Posted: 22 Jun 2020 Last revised: 19 Feb 2021

See all articles by Y. Tony Yang

Y. Tony Yang

George Washington University

Elizabeth Pendo

Saint Louis University - School of Law

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss

UC Hastings Law


Battles around workplace vaccination policies often focus on the annual influenza vaccine, but many healthcare employers impose requirements for additional vaccines because of the increased likelihood that employees in this sector will interact with populations at increased risk of acquiring or experiencing harmful sequelae of vaccine-preventable diseases. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and many states recommend healthcare employees receive numerous vaccines, including measles, mumps, and rubella (“MMR”); tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (“Tdap”). However, recent outbreaks of once-eliminated diseases that are now resurgent and the rising antivaccination movement raise questions about how far employers can go to mandate vaccinations. While healthcare institutions are increasingly mandating that employees receive vaccinations, employee objections to vaccines, including litigation, have increased in recent years. Employer policies must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. Although the ADA permits mandatory vaccine policies under certain circumstances, employers must consider reasonable accommodations, which are changes to the job or work environment that permit the employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job, within certain limits. This article analyzes two recent cases which suggest how employers seeking to protect their workforce and the patients they serve by requiring vaccines can work within the framework of the ADA to implement these policies.

Keywords: disability, Americans with Disabilities Act, vaccination policies, employment discrimination, reasonable accommodation, undue burden, direct threat, health care workplace

JEL Classification: I100, I1, I18, K32, J7, J71

Suggested Citation

Yang, Y. Tony and Pendo, Elizabeth and Reiss, Dorit Rubinstein, The Americans with Disabilities Act and Healthcare Employer-Mandated Vaccinations. 38(16) Vaccine 3184 (Apr. 3, 2020), UC Hastings Research Paper No. 390, Saint Louis U. Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2020-12, Available at SSRN:

Y. Tony Yang

George Washington University ( email )

1919 Pennsylvania Ave
Washington, DC 20006
United States

Elizabeth Pendo (Contact Author)

Saint Louis University - School of Law ( email )

100 N. Tucker Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63101
United States
(314) 977-2767 (Phone)

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss

UC Hastings Law ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States
415-5654844 (Phone)
415-5654865 (Fax)

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