Note:  The content of this article is provided for general information purposes only. It should not be considered legal advice or used as a substitute for consulting an attorney for legal advice regarding the participant’s own matters.

RALEIGH – With the introduction of vaccines for COVID-19, attention has turned to the distribution of the vaccines and the prioritization of eligibility for vaccination.

The North Carolina Technology Association (NC TECH) recently hosted a virtual session on vaccine prioritization, including updates on recent announcements on revisions to these policies.

Natalie Sanders, an employment attorney with the Brooks Pierce Law Firm, offered a presentation to members of NC TECH on what employers and employees need to know about how eligibility is determined, what the employer’s role is, and more.

In December, the CDC issued vaccination priority guidance:

  • Phase 1a:  Healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities
  • Phase 1b:  Frontline essential workers & People aged 75 and older
  • Phase 1c:  People aged 65-74 & People aged 16-74 with underlying medical conditions
  • Phase 2:  All persons aged 16 and older not already recommended for vaccination in an earlier phase

In North Carolina, this guidance has been structured into five groups:

  1. Healthcare Workers and Long-Term Care Staff and Residents (active)
  2. Older Adults (active)
  3. Frontline Essential Workers
  4. Adults at High Risk for Exposure and Increased Risk of Severe Illness
  5. Everyone

The first two groups are in active status.  The third group timeline was announced on February 10, 2021:

  • February 24, 2021: Anyone working in childcare or in PreK-12 schools
  • March 10, 2021: Additional Frontline Workers

Employees that can answer yes to both questions below are considered frontline essential workers and will be eligible to receive their vaccination once North Carolina moves into Group 3:

  • Is my place of employment one of the eight essential sectors listed?
  • Do I have to be in-person at my work site?

The eight essential sectors that make up eligible sectors for Group 3 vaccination are:

  1. Critical Manufacturing
  2. Education
  3. Essential Goods
  4. Food & Agriculture
  5. Government and Community Services
  6. Health Care and Public Health
  7. Public Safety
  8. Transportation

One of the questions employers face is whether they can, or should, mandate that employees be vaccinated in order to be in the workplace.

Employers can indeed mandate vaccinations, within certain parameters and with certain accommodations required.  Employers can also require proof of vaccination.  But there are both legal and public image considerations to consider before implementing such policies.

Navigating the options and choices faced by employers and employees is an important and time-sensitive task.  Much of the nuance was covered in the virtual session, with the key take-away that it is important to tread carefully and follow the guidelines.

The full video of the session, along with slides containing key NC and CDC links, are available to employees of member companies/organizations of NC TECH.  Contact them at 919-856-0393 or