Attorneys warn of authorized points with COVID vaccine incentives

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Legal issues with COVID-19 pandemic

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) — Several major companies are offering incentives for employees to get the COVID vaccine. But one employment attorney said the offers can present some tricky legal issues.

Chicago-based McDonald’s is one of a number of companies that said it will pay employees to get the vaccine. McDonald’s said it will give workers at company owned restaurants four hours of pay to get their COVID shots.

Trader Joe’s and Olive Garden parent company Darden Restaurants have also said they would give employees several hours of pay to get the vaccine.

But employment attorneys said that could present a legal issue to businesses that are making the offer.

Chicago employment attorney Brian Weinthal told the WBBM Noon Business Hour that an offer of extra pay could be considered discriminatory against people who can’t or won’t get the vaccine.

He said people could turn down the vaccine for religious reasons, or because they have a health issue that prevents them from taking the vaccine.

“The risk factor for many of these companies, for people who can’t get vaccinated either on a religious basis or a disability basis, is that they say they’re being discriminated against, because they simply can’t take advantage of the incentive that you are providing,” Weinthal said.

He added businesses could encounter the same legal issues if they require a proof of vaccination before allowing an employee back in the office.

“If you are an employer that mandates a vaccine, you are naturally going to have people who offer up those same objections – either I have a religious basis for which I can’t get it or alternatively I have a potential disability that literally does not allow me to get the vaccine,” Weinthal said.

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