Can My Employer Make COVID-19 Vaccination Mandatory and Fire Me If I Don’t Get Vaccinated?
Now that the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine is here in the United States, Americans are divided on whether or not to get vaccinated.
According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, about one in five American respondents say they would “probably” or “definitely” not get a COVID-19 vaccine.
As a large number of Americans are unwilling to get a coronavirus vaccine, many employers in California — and all across the country — are considering making the COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for their employees.
But is it legal for your employer to make coronavirus vaccination mandatory? Can your employer fire you or take adverse employment actions against you for your refusal to get vaccinated for COVID-19?
Can your employer force you to get vaccinated for COVID-19?
As multiple outlets have reported, employers in several industries — including manufacturing and food services — are considering forcing their workers to get vaccinated for COVID-19, with refusal to do so resulting in termination.
But would that constitute “wrongful termination” under California or federal law?
Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT illegal for an employer to implement and enforce a mandatory vaccination policy. After all, they have done it in the past. And currently, there are no laws or Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines addressing the issue of COVID-19 vaccination in employment.
In fact, under the existing law, employers can indeed make coronavirus vaccination mandatory and fire employees who refuse to get a vaccine for COVID-19. However, there are a few exceptions to employers’ ability to enforce a mandatory coronavirus vaccination policy.
When is it illegal for employers to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory?
Situations in which an employer may be prohibited from requiring employees to get vaccinated for COVID-19 include:
- Workers are protected by a collective bargaining agreement negotiated by the union under Section 8(d) & 8(a)(5) of the National Labor Relations Act. In this case, the employer is required to negotiate with the union before implementing and enforcing a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy.
- Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employees with qualifying disabilities may be eligible to request a reasonable accommodation if they do not want to get a COVID-19 vaccine for a medical reason.
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act makes it illegal for employers to refuse to accommodate a worker’s “sincerely held” religious beliefs unless providing the accommodation would create an undue hardship. However, the employee will have to prove that getting vaccinated for COVID-19 is a violation of their “sincerely held” religious belief.
- According to OSHA, workers who refuse to get vaccinated may also be protected under Section 11(c) of the OSHA pertaining to whistleblower rights. However, the employee must have “a reasonable belief” that getting vaccinated for COVID-19 would expose them to a risk of “serious illness or death” because of their medical condition.
Laws and regulations from federal and state authorities are particularly subject to change during times of uncertainty such as these. For this reason, it is vital to consult with a Los Angeles employment lawyer to help you navigate the legality of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies. Call at 424-284-2401 to set up a consultation with our attorneys at Obagi Law Group, P.C.