The Business Ethics of COVID Vaccines

The Business Ethics of COVID Vaccines

As COVID-19 vaccinations continue across the country, it is raising unique ethical questions for organizations.  Here are some common ones:

  • Should we require my employees to get vaccines for their own good and the good of team members and customers?
  • Do we need to give employees paid time off to get the vaccine? Do we need to give extra time off if they experience side effects?
  • Can we require employees to disclose when they have gotten the vaccine, so we know where we are as an organization in terms of protection?
  • Are we willing to change the job responsibilities of employees who refuse to get a vaccine, but who have frequent interactions with many customers?
  • How much should we trust the word of an employee who says they aren’t getting a vaccine for medical or religious reasons? How hard should we encourage them to get one?  Should we require them to tell others they have not been vaccinated, so they can protect themselves around that person?
  • Will we continue to support “work from home” if an employee prefers to do so, after the vaccine is distributed? What will we require with respect to on-site presence once employees have the opportunity to get a vaccine?
  • How should we monitor the health status of employees before we identify the “new normal” in the workplace?

 Many of these questions do not have clear answers, and some of them straddle the line between ethics and the law. Organizations like the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) can help navigate the legal questions, but they do not necessarily help you with the ethical ones.

When balancing the different needs of employees and customers, and the different levels of individual choice and social responsibility, ethical questions abound.  Openly discussing these topics can help your organization make principled choices that both reflect and communicate your collective values in these uncertain times.

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