Adults in the United States are not legally required to get vaccinated, but employers in some industries require it as a stipulation of employment. All branches of the U.S. military require service men and women to receive certain vaccinations, and many hospitals and clinics also mandate some immunizations. These healthcare facilities make up the majority of private employers who instate mandatory vaccination policies nationwide.
The controversy surrounding whether an employer can force employees to receive vaccinations – such as the seasonal flu vaccine – brings up a number of employment law issues.
So are mandatory vaccination policies legal? The answer is usually yes, but there are some exceptions. Read on to find out what’s legal when it comes to your employer requiring vaccinations in the workplace.
What is the purpose of a mandatory vaccination policy?
Vaccines offer “community immunity,” sometimes called “herd immunity,” meaning that when a large portion of a population receives a particular vaccine, the rates of that infection drop sharply. This type of immunity is particularly important in the healthcare field, where workers often come in contact with patients who have immune system deficiencies. However, other employers might implement such policies to keep their workforce healthy, especially during flu season.
All states require children to receive vaccinations to attend public (and most private) schools. Each state, however, also has an exemption policy outlining requirements to skip vaccinations. All states allow for medical exemptions, and many provide options for parents who object to vaccinating their children on religious or philosophical grounds. In some cases, employers offer these same exemptions to employees who cannot or do not want to receive the shots.
What are the legal issues surrounding mandatory vaccinations?
Most people in Ohio work under what is known as “at-will employment.” This means there is no employment agreement or other contract in place guaranteeing their job. They can be fired at any time, as long as their termination is not discriminatory or retaliatory.
Your employer can mandate vaccines – including flu vaccines – and your job may be at risk if you refuse. Most employers who require vaccinations offer medical and religious exemptions; however, if they do not, you may have a legal case against your employer. This is true when a mandatory vaccination violates your legal rights under federal or state discrimination laws.
For example, if your religion disallows vaccinations but your employer does not allow for religious exemptions, you may have a religious discrimination claim. In other cases, some employees may be unable to receive a certain vaccination due to a health condition, and those terminated for refusing the vaccination may have a valid legal claim against the employer.
If you have questions about your employer’s mandatory vaccination policy – or if you are an employer considering enacting one of these policies – contact the attorneys at Robert A. Klingler Co., L.P.A. today at 513-665-9500 to learn more about the legal ramifications of mandatory vaccinations as they apply to your case.