The Legality around Vaccines for the Pilates Industry

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As vaccine roll-outs begin to ramp up around the world, we have gotten several questions about mandatory vaccine policies. Vaccines are an incredibly powerful tool for public health. These guidelines are general and subject to change as the law progresses. They are also aimed toward in-person US-based gyms and studios, in communities where vaccines are widely available. For more information about your specific guidelines, reach out to your county or municipal health department.

Here are the most consistent questions we have been asked:

1. Can businesses require employees to get vaccinated?

In general, yes, employers can elect to only employ those who have been vaccinated. At-will employment allows employees to be terminated for most any reason, as long as it is not discriminatory. There is wide precedent for allowing vaccine mandates, including vaccines for tuberculosis, polio, and chicken pox. These vaccines stop the spread of highly contagious viruses, and keep the general public safe.

Medical Accommodations

Employers do have a duty to make reasonable accommodations for those with medical exemptions, to avoid facing discrimination claims under the Americans with Disability Act (“ADA”). A medical exemption might be available to those with a “disability” as defined by the ADA. If a disability exists, then an employer must make a reasonable accommodation, if one exists. A reasonable accommodation is one that has only a very small burden on the employer. In a typical work environment this might mean allowing that employee to work virtually. This is rarely an option for a gym, and there are few accommodations, if any, that would be an option. Therefore, it is likely okay that gyms or studios cannot provide accommodation.

Incentives and Education

If you don’t feel comfortable mandating the vaccine to staff, you can also incentivize them to do so. Offering them a free t-shirt or an extra day of PTO might encourage them to get the shot. Vaccine hesitancy is real, and offering staff information about how the vaccines meet all safety requirements can encourage them to make the leap. Consider covering costs associated with the vaccine (paying for parking at the site, etc), and developing a vaccine education program to encourage staff to get vaccinated.

2. Can businesses require patrons to get vaccinated?

In general, yes. We require certain things for patrons everyday, including wearing shoes, or shirts, and following basic etiquette to keep everyone safe. Some patrons might not be able to receive a vaccine for a medical or religious reason, so it is thoughtful (but not required) to provide a reasonable alternative that doesn’t put others at risk. At a studio, that might mean offering virtual classes. A “reasonable alternative” is one that only puts a small amount of extra work on the business.

Private businesses have the right to do lots of things, for any reason. Nightclubs can turn you away for wearing sandals. Gyms can make you leave if you display reckless behavior with weights. Studios can require you to sign away your legal right to sue for negligence. Therefore, private businesses can also require patrons to be vaccinated.

3. How do I get proof?

This question is delicate, and does not have a clear answer. Some people are comfortable sharing their vaccination card with the world via social media, while others are more private. Marking it in their file that they have been vaccinated is perfectly acceptable.

In some states, governments are developing a ‘passport’ similar to the Yellow Cards for international travel. This would be an excellent way to see if someone has been vaccinated. Unfortunately, they are not widely available yet. In light of this, it is most reasonable that you ask people to sign an affirmation that they have been fully vaccinated. This allows people to volunteer the information, and doesn’t require you to keep track of their health information via a vaccine card. There is the risk that people will lie, however that risk is always there when getting staff or patrons to sign legal documents, and the remedies are already established.

4. What if clients have already paid?

If a client has already paid for your services before you implemented the rule, then you must refund them. If a client has paid for the services while knowing that you require vaccination (this is one reason why a customized Service Agreement is so important), then follow your standard refund policy. Another option would be giving them a gift card to use for virtual services, or to buy items like a yoga mat.

5. What if I am not in an at-will employment jurisdiction?

You must then follow the regulations for that jurisdiction when it comes to letting someone go. In some places, you will need to pay their wages for 30 days, or two weeks. If you aren’t sure about the regulations in your jurisdiction, you can check with your respective Department of Labor.

If you need any support or legal agreements, send me an email If you need to update your service agreement to include new health affirmations (COVID, vaccine requirements, etc.), we are running a special sale expiring May 1st you can access here.

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