The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the first COVID-19 vaccine this week strengthens the position of employers who have started to implement vaccine requirements for their employees.

The FDA approved the vaccine to be used for the prevention of COVID-19 in individuals 16 years of age and older. Approval of the second COVID-19 vaccine is anticipated in the coming months.

FDA Commissioner, Dr. Janet Woodcock, has stated that the public “can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product.”

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has published guidance on workplace vaccination policies which make it clear that employers may impose mandatory vaccination policies as a condition of employees physically entering the workplace. These guidelines have allowed employers like the City of Chicago to require vaccines for city employees.

Although the EEOC guidance only addresses the employment relationship, real estate brokerages should also be able to implement their own policies requiring their independent contractors to be vaccinated and to wear masks in the workplace. The burden will be upon the independent contractor to decide whether they want to follow the brokerage policy or risk termination of the independent contractor relationship.

In addition, brokerages should be able to require independent contractors to provide proof of vaccination without fear of violating worker classification laws by implementing a policy that is based upon exposure risk to the public and in the workplace, and not on the nature of the relationship. Brokerages should consider consulting with their own attorneys about the appropriate language.

For more information on vaccination approval and workplace policies: