Two lawyers from West Washington say your employer could require you to get a coronavirus vaccine once it becomes widespread.
EDMONDS, Wash. – It’s a simple question: can my employer ask me to get a coronavirus vaccine?
While the news is full of pictures of happy and relieved nurses, doctors, and other frontline medicals receiving their first round of the Pfizer vaccine this week, various polls suggest that not everyone is on board, including some people in the Healthcare.
“The issue is not fully resolved because the vaccine was not widely available,” said Everett attorney Todd Nichols, who handles labor cases. “But the consensus in the labor law community is that an employer can request a vaccination.”
Nichols said employers can require drivers of their vehicles to wear seat belts and schools require vaccines.
“For example, it is legal for an employer to hire non-smokers,” said Nichols.
RELATED: Washington Legislature Is Proposing Laws To Ban “Discrimination” Against COVID-19 Vaccines.
And let’s not forget the flu vaccine, which is also needed by many employers to protect other employees so that the company does not become seriously ill.
“An employer can require an employee to get vaccinated before an employee returns to work,” said Aaron Rocke, a Seattle labor law attorney. “The law requires a small safety valve. If the employee has a specific medical concern, or a religious or similar objection, we need to discuss whether or not this is accommodation that can be made. “
Rocke also referred to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which provides guidelines on labor law related to the coronavirus. Some of these questions have already been asked and answered: Can your employer ask you to stay home if you have symptoms of COVID-19? The answer is yes.
This guide has just been updated.
“On December 16, the EEOC issued new instructions that it is not a medical examination to ask an employee to show a receipt that they received a vaccination,” said Rocke. “Without invading anyone’s privacy or medical history, this is an easy step for an employer to take.”
According to Rocke, these rules apply to employers with 15 or more employees.
These are still very early days for vaccine distribution. Some estimates show that we could walk well into summer and even fall before anyone who wants a vaccine could get one. And that could also affect anyone in need of a vaccine who can get one.
“The legal assumption is that the vaccine will generally be available to the public before employers can ask people to get it,” said Nichols. “You cannot ask for something that is impossible to get or not available.”
While some are resistant to the idea now, or waiting to see what the side effects really are, will most people get on board when vaccines in the population prove to be as safe as medical authorities like the FDA expect? The vaccination schedule seems to suggest that this may not become a major problem until months later.