Many employers are mandating vaccines for employees returning to work. But are they required to pay you for the time you take off work to get the vaccine and for any side effects? Most likely not, but there are some jobs and some states where you might be entitled to this.
In general, there is no law requiring any sick leave in my home state of Florida, much less paid sick leave. Other states, like New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and California, offer some protections for certain employees so keep an eye on those state laws.
If you are a federal employee you may be protected under the American Rescue Plan Act. That law provides paid leave for up to 600 hours of leave for federal employees who are suffering side effects from the vaccine, under quarantine, caring for someone under quarantine, and even for getting the vaccine.
For employees of other employers, they ceased being required to give you paid leave for COVID-related illnesses under The Families First Coronavirus Response Act as of December 31, 2020. However, for small and midsize companies, if they choose to give employees paid leave for up to 10 days, which includes leave for vaccine side effects, they get a tax credit. So it makes sense for employers to offer this. Still, it's voluntary.
Family and Medical Leave applies if you’ve been employed at least a year and they have at least 50 employees within 75 miles of your work location. However, for you to have a qualified serious health condition as required for protected leave, you had to be incapacitated for 3 days and visit a doctor at least once. Most folks have side effects for only 2 days or less, so this probably doesn’t apply to you. If it does, you were entitled to up to 12 weeks of leave, and your employer had to restore you to the same or an equivalent position and cannot hold that leave against you.
If you are in a unionized workplace, the collective bargaining agreement should protect you from being punished for being out sick. Just make sure you do everything required of you when you call out.
Even if they don’t voluntarily offer sick leave for this, punishing employees who are doing the right thing by getting vaccinated is a jerk move. Employers should really consider how their policies affect morale and workplace health and safety. If you are sick from the vaccine, I suggest following the employer’s sick leave policy and making sure you call out timely. Read your handbook if they have one and make sure you follow all the requirements for calling out sick so you don’t give them an excuse to punish you.