Employment law expert: Returning to the office in COVID era

BOSTON — With more than half of adults in the U.S. now receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, office spaces may not be empty much longer.

Companies are now looking at new vaccination policies to bring workers back safely.

“I would say the larger employers are looking at this because they’re really on the cusp of bringing everybody back,” explained Walter Foster, an employment law attorney at Eckert Seamans.

According to Foster, some businesses are considering making it mandatory for everyone going back in-person to be fully vaccinated.

Those who don’t want to may not have a lot of legal options.

“Do you have a public right to a job? The answer is you have a public right to work. Every employee says, ‘I’ve invested and I’ve been doing this work for forever,’ but the answer is you might be able to do that at another company,” he explained.

But Foster said there are two main exceptions: Those with medical conditions who may fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or those with strongly held religious beliefs.

Foster added that he does believe companies will be flexible.

“What we’re seeing is that the smaller companies are much more nimble, and I think the larger companies are seeing this, they really are seeing this, and if anything it’s a lesson to the larger companies that there’s no one way of doing this,” he said. “Businesses will find a way to work this out. I have found that during this entire time people have tried to pull together, because it’s such a really, really tough time.”

New telecommuting policies are also starting to emerge in the corporate world, as some people plan to continue working from home.

“I think that you’re going to end up with many companies, particularly of a great size, that are hybrid in nature and it’s going to allow them to be even more flexible,” Foster told Boston 25 News.

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