Department of Justice Declares COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates Legal

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has determined that federal law does not prohibit public agencies and private businesses from requiring COVID-19 vaccines. Thus, the DOJ’s finding paves the way for more employers to require vaccinations.

Recently, the DOJ had been receiving numerous requests from employers seeking legal backing for policies aimed at requiring vaccinations.  As a result, the DOJ issued a legal opinion addressing these requests, and it is now expected that numerous employers and educational institutions across the United States will soon announce that they will require individuals to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment or enrollment. See Department of Justice  (July 6, 2021).  Specifically, the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel stated that the law “does not prohibit public or private entities from imposing vaccination requirements for vaccines that are subject to” emergency use authorizations.

While a number of federal lawsuits have been filed concerning COVID-19 vaccine mandates, opponents of the mandates have not had much success in court when challenging the requirements. Recently, a federal judge in Texas sided with a hospital when its employees sued to block its COVID-19 vaccine requirement.  Additionally, a federal judge in Indiana also rejected a request by students that it block Indiana University’s vaccine requirements.

Thus, the DOJ’s legal opinion now gives employers and governmental agencies more standing to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations.  Therefore, employees should be on the lookout as to whether their employers will elect to require them to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a future condition of employment.