Can Employers Require Workers To Get The Coronavirus Vaccine?

Recorded on September 22, 2020

When a coronavirus vaccine becomes available, can an employer require workers to get it? Attorney Paul Harding of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, LLP is on PYX106 discussing the issue.

Please give it a listen or read the transcript below.

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Male 1: It’s 1800law1010, Paul Harding from Martin, Harding & Mazzotti on the phone.

Male 2: We were just curious on when a vaccine is available, how far can an employer go to encourage you or even, you know, demand that you get it?

Male 1: Like, say we don’t want the first vaccine that comes around the corner and we say, “Hey, iHeart, thanks, but I’m just going to hold off for a second.”

Paul: So I was surprised by this answer and I think maybe the listeners and you guys might be also because here’s the rule. If the employer says, “Hey, you have to have the vaccine or we’re going to part ways,” they can do that. And that really is one of these things. And really what really it’s coming down to is the state also is gonna have the ability to make people who are in certain situations have the vaccine or lose out on certain things.

Now, it is a situation where they can make their own decision so iHeart can say, “Hey, guys, it’s optional.” Or, they can say, “Listen, you know, you gotta do it, otherwise, it’s going to affect our business so much that we’re going to have to get someone else in there to do that morning show.”

Male 1: So let’s hit the fast forward button, someone has a problem because they took the vaccine early, what’s the recourse for that person? Is there recourse?

Paul: Well, yes, it’s kind of… you know. So what happened is the Vaccine Act, which came about in the ’80s, basically kind of just makes it so you cannot sue for the vaccination, you cannot sue for the production of that vaccination. They just came about a law that said, “Listen, there’s a vaccination fund, and you can recover some medical bills, etc.” But when we’re talking about COVID-19, we’re talking about the world getting shut down.

Male 1: You see some loopholes in that. I bet you see a couple of loopholes.

Paul: I wish there were more. Yeah, there are some…you know, there are some, but, you know, when we have people who call us and say, “Look, you know, we took the X vaccine, something that, you know, people take all the time because we know kids take vaccines before they go to school,” and someone will call and say, “But we’ve had this reaction to it.” It really is just the vaccination fund. There are some who do it around the country, not many, and we send them there, but often for no recovery at all.

So in terms of whether or not, you know, we get here, we’ve got about a third of the country right now that said they don’t want to take the vaccine if and when, I guess you would say when one comes out, but the real issue is, could you lose your job? And the answer is yes, but I don’t think every employer is going to be exercising that right.

Male 1: But the guy with the brain problem.

Male 2: I know, but you know, I feel like people who work in hospital facilities are around people who are susceptible to COVID should probably be encouraged or demanded. DJs, maybe not.

Male 1: The only difference here is timing as far as the trials. I mean, that’s… So there is a possibility of a mistake. We’re human beings, and it happens, but, you know, usually, it’s doing it faster because we need it faster, so are we all on the same playing field, I guess.

Paul: This argument of the public good is super strong here. So they’re going to make this vaccine, it’s going to come about quicker, maybe because the entire world is focused on it, as opposed to sometimes you just get vaccines that are coming out that don’t have nearly this amount of energy being poured into it because the folks who put this together know that they’ve got to put themselves on the map, right? It is going to be a hot seller, I mean, if the person… the group that gets this approved.

So yeah, I hear you. I think there’s going to be a tremendous amount of controversy here, and then, could an employer be sued if they want to enforce the vaccine? Yeah, they can be. If the person making the argument said, “Listen, you know, I have a disability or I have a religious exemption. I don’t want to do this, but you’ve just fired me, I’m going to bring a claim.” Sure, we’re going to see that. But right now, everything I read and think about tells me that the employer would be on solid footing in most cases, if not all.

Male 2: Well, that was interesting. I’m glad we had you on because I had no idea about that.

Male 1: Yeah. So there you go. You heard it right there from Paul. Solid footing for your company to make you get the virus vaccine.

Male 2: Good stuff, Paul. Thanks for coming on this morning.

Paul: All right guys, talk soon.

Male 1: See you, pal. 1800law1010,

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