What Are Your Rights? Vaccination Rights in the Workplace

Recorded on September 2, 2020.

Can employers require their employees to get a COVID-19 vaccination when one becomes available? Managing partner Paul Harding of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti helps examine this topic from a legal perspective.

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Interviewer: As people working from home during the pandemic begin to return to the office, some are wondering if an employer can require their employees to get a COVID-19 vaccination when one becomes available. Here to help examine this topic is managing partner Paul Harding from the law firm of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. Paul, welcome.

Paul: Good to be here. Thank you.

Interviewer: Thanks for being here. We’ll jump into the first question. If a vaccine, more like when a vaccine becomes available, could an employer require you to get the vaccine as a condition of your employment?

Paul: So I was a little surprised at the answer I’m about to give but the answer is yes, they could and presumably will. So if you are working somewhere and the vaccine comes out and your employer says, “We’re all going to get our vaccination” and you don’t, you could be let go from your employment.

Interviewer: Under what terms can an employee be excused from getting the vaccine?

Paul: So there’s very few. The ADA has outlined a couple. It’s really unclear, we’re talking about really uncharted water here, but in most situations, the ADA is not going to come in and going to help folks who feel that they are just uncomfortable at work. They feel that it’s dangerous at work. Those are normally the things that the ADA would be there in order to help. Here it’s going to be, from what I read, more of a life or death situation, which really has not been defined.

Interviewer: Well, this appears to be similar to how students are required to get vaccines before entering school. So not necessarily a new concept we’re talking about.

Paul: It’s not but what’s happening is the vaccine feels, and if you read a lot, rushed. It feels like there’s less confidence in what we’re being told through different media outlets. And so I think what we have here is yes, you can’t enter a public school. Your kids are vaccinated. These exemptions have been lifted, including the religious exemption most recently here in New York.

But somehow that piece of it just feels different when we’re talking about this COVID-19 vaccine that everyone is waiting for. But I guess about 40% of the population said they would not consider even taking it when a poll was done just a few weeks ago.

Interviewer: All right, Paul, thanks. Obviously, a developing topic here that we plan to stay on top of for you.

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