COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates

August 18 • 2021

The U.S. federal government recently established a mandate that all federal employees must become vaccinated or be subject to enhanced testing and distancing protocols. Other state and local governments have enacted, are enacting or are contemplating vaccine mandates for employees. We are continuing to closely monitor the rapidly evolving situation relating to COVID-19 vaccines and concerns regarding potential vaccine mandates, as well as fielding inquiries from IAFF members who are opposed to the vaccine for various reasons.

COVID cases in the United States and Canada are trending up and, sadly, 42 of our members have passed away in the line of duty. The IAFF immediately went to work in ensuring that the families left behind gained some measure of solace. In bi-partisan fashion, we were able to advance and secure legislation that retroactively included COVID deaths as eligible for a Public Safety Officers’ Benefit (PSOB).

The IAFF Executive Board position is clear: we strongly encourage all members to get vaccinated and to talk with their primary care or fire department physician regarding the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as to address any concerns.

The IAFF understands and acknowledges that employers can, in some circumstances, mandate their employees be vaccinated against COVID-19. Before imposing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate, employers should confer with their IAFF affiliates, including bargaining to the fullest extent permitted by law, over topics including cost, paid time off for employees to become vaccinated or quarantine after a COVID-19 contact, liability for potential adverse consequences of being vaccinated and the process for exemption from the mandate.  

Employees in the United States who are unable to be vaccinated due to a disability, or because they are the member of another protected class, should be offered reasonable accommodations consistent with Title VII and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) or applicable state or local laws. Employees in Canada who are unable to be vaccinated due to a disability or because they are the member of another protected class should be offered reasonable accommodations consistent with applicable human rights legislation.

The IAFF continues to monitor the status of pending legislation; however, because some state and local governing bodies include exemptions for first responders and healthcare providers, we recommend that affiliates confer with their legal counsel.

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines.