What Are Your Rights? Workplace Vaccination Requirements

Recorded on May 5, 2021

With the online discussion of COVID vaccine passports and studies showing that the majority of employers may encourage or even require their employees to get vaccinated, what happens to those who refuse to do so? What are an employer’s responsibilities in terms of keeping their team safe?

Managing partner Paul Harding of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti is on CBS6 to help discuss this legal issue.

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Announcer: The following segment is sponsored by Martin, Harding & Mazzotti.

Interviewer: With a good percentage of the population getting vaccinated against the coronavirus and vaccine doses becoming more readily available, there seems to be a vaccination appointment available to anyone who wants one. However, recent reports indicate the number of people getting inoculated had dropped off and that many of those who have not yet vaccinated are opting out. With the online discussion of vaccine passports and studies showing that the majority of employers may encourage or even require their employees to get vaccinated. What happens to those who refuse to do so?

Here to help examine this issue is Managing Partner Paul Harding, from the law firm of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. So, Paul, we’re gonna jump right into it. We’ve talked a little bit about this before. The vaccine passport, what is that?

Paul: The vaccine passport is gonna be a way to show that you’ve had the vaccine, right? Certain venues can say that we want only vaccinated people to attend this event. It’s a way to do that without pulling out medical records and violating any HIPAA laws. It’s gonna say, “Got it? Don’t got it.”

Interviewer: Okay, as employers and offices reopen, what are an employer’s responsibilities in terms of keeping their employees safe?

Paul: Yes, what we’re seeing is just the way that there…there are gonna be less employees and space, maybe forever, right? Because before, the rules were kinda loosey-goosey, and you kinda jammed people in. So we know that when people come back, it’s gonna be the six feet or maybe the three-foot rule. You know, we’re seeing where that’s gonna go, but it’s just gonna be different.

And so right now, employers, they’ve gotta provide masks, and there’s gonna be safe places to go. And they’ve gotta prove that they’ve got enough PPE around the office. But, again, we see the people in New York City just kinda reported that there was a huge number of people coming back to work, which, ultimately, is good.

Interviewer: So, can employers go as far as requiring their employees to get vaccinated before returning to work? And what rights does an employee have if they don’t get vaccinated?

Paul: Yeah, this is a touchy one. The answer’s sort of, yes, they can. They can say we only want people vaccinated working at our restaurant, working at our facility, where they can do that. And then can they fire you if you don’t get a vaccination? You know the prevailing wisdom is, yes. Now would there be a backlash? It might be there are gonna be employment claims, I think so. But right now, it appears they can, but they gotta be careful, right? There’s religious exemptions, still alive and well, and you’re still gonna have the American Disabilities Act. The people who can’t get the vaccine because they have other immune issues. So it’s not gonna be a green light for an employer to do that, but they’re gonna have a lot more rights than I think most of us thought they had.

Interviewer: All right, well, we are obviously living in a different world, and we’ll see how this all plays out. If you’d like to hear this interview again, you can head to our website, cbs6albany.com.

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