PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — With a vaccine against coronavirus expected to become available soon, here’s a question to consider.
Can your employer require you to get vaccinated as a condition of employment? Some people cannot wait to be vaccinated, while others want to see how it turns out first. And then some say ‘no’ to vaccines.
Employers impose all kinds of rules on employees from dress codes to office behavior to specific work skills, but can they require you to get the coronavirus vaccine?
“We are getting this question from a number of our clients, and in particular, they are asking, ‘What is the guidance out there?’ And there is very little,” says Clare Gallagher, a Pittsburgh employment attorney.
Little guidance from the government, that is, but courts have weighed in on this issue before.
“Generally, an employer can require vaccines,” says Gallagher.
“As a general rule, you can condition or make it a condition of employment that someone undergo a vaccination,” said employment attorney Sam Cordes, who has had cases involving vaccines.
Cordes says some employers already require vaccinations.
“Invariably, it’s been hospitals and hospital providers. For example, a lot of hospitals in our area, pre-COVID, required an employee to have a DPT vaccination,” said Cordes.
Next year, watch more employers require a coronavirus vaccine, especially for first responders, grocery and retail workers, and restaurant employees.
“Anything that deals with the public can legitimately, as a condition of employment, make that a requirement,” Cordes told KDKA money editor Jon Delano.
There are exceptions but opposing a vaccine is not one of them.
“Being an anti-vaxxer is not a protected classification,” says Cordes. “If I have a sincere religious belief, that’s different.”
In addition to the religious exception, another exception is a medical condition that risks harm with a vaccine.
But bottom line is that exceptions will narrow and requirements expand during a public health crisis.
“There’s going to be a policy need to weigh the rights of the individual versus the rights of the group,” says Gallagher.