An employer may exclude those with Covid-19, or symptoms associated with the virus, from the workplace because “their presence would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others.” Most employees are willing to do their part, staying home to prevent the spread of the virus, but wonder what will happen when a vaccine becomes widely available? Will they lose their jobs if they refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19?
Although most companies will likely encourage employees to get immunized rather than issuing a company-wide mandate, the answer is, yes, in most cases an employer can require Covid-19 vaccination to continue employment except where disability or religious beliefs prevent vaccination. Generally speaking, employment in the U.S. is at will, meaning not only can an employer hire at will, they can also fire at will. Employers have a right to set health and safety work conditions which may include vaccination for Covid-19. Even those who have a disability or a religious belief that prevents them from taking the Covid-19 Virus vaccine may be at risk for termination. Although an employer is required to provide a reasonable accommodation for protected classes under the law, that is only if an alternative exists.
That said, many employers are weighing the liability of requiring a vaccine where there is a chance that the vaccine may create harm to an employee. After all, an employee that has an adverse reaction will often be able to make a workers’ compensation claim against the employer. As it stands many employers are reluctant to make Covid 19 vaccine a condition of employment, but certainly those who work in the healthcare industry or public facing jobs will likely be strongly encouraged. If vaccination requirements do become more common and you have concerns, it is important to raise any concerns with your employer and ask for a reasonable accommodation, alternatives which may include working from home.
If you are subject to an adverse employment action such as termination of employment or you have been injured at work and are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, it is important to work with an experienced attorney to ensure that your rights are protected and that your benefits are maximized. Contact the Des Moines Employment Law attorneys of Stoltze & Stoltze, PLC for immediate assistance today at 515-244-1473.