PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – As the pandemic among the unvaccinated spreads, some employers are considering whether to require all their employees to be vaccinated as a condition of employment.
The whole issue raises questions for many.READ MORE: Suspects Accused Of Stealing No Parking Signs And Ripping Down Flags Expected To Turn Themselves In
“Those who choose to be unvaccinated, some of them feel their body, their right, but they’re affecting and infecting everyone else,” says Wendell Young, president of the 35,000-member United Food and Commercial Workers union, Local 1776, that represents local Giant Eagle workers.
Young says he supports employers who require the vaccination of all employees.
“We have to take it seriously, and if we want to take it seriously and beat it, we have to support the idea of people being required to be vaccinated,” Young told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Wednesday.
“Our position is we want people to be vaccinated, but they’re not forced to be vaccinated,” says Ross Nicotero, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 85, that represents 2,200 Port Authority drivers and mechanics.
“I can ask them. I can entice them. I want my members to have every opportunity they can have. But I can’t force someone to do that. It’s their own personal preference,” says Nicotero.
So far, neither Giant Eagle nor the Port Authority requires vaccinations for its workers, but employment attorney Susan Roberts says they legally could.READ MORE: Pennsylvania Ready For Booster Shots Once Feds Give OK, Acting Health Secretary Says
“Yes, employers and government agencies as well can require that employees be vaccinated,” says Roberts.
Over a hundred years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court said states could order everyone immunized against smallpox, and state law already mandates that children in school be vaccinated against some diseases.
Private-sector employers can set conditions of employment, says Roberts, including vaccinations.
“However, there are exceptions to that blanket rule,” says the attorney.
For example, those with a medical condition that precludes vaccination or those with a strongly held religious belief could be exempted.
Legally, it doesn’t matter what the job is, but, says Roberts, “Employers who have employees that are public-facing, who have more direct contact with the public, obviously in that instance it can be argued that there is even more reason to have the employees vaccinated.”MORE NEWS: Pittsburgh Partners With Kiwibot To Launch Robot Delivery System
Now a few states have passed bills to prohibit vaccinations, but Roberts says those laws, as applied to private employers, are still unresolved in the courts.