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Can your employer insist you get a COVID-19 vaccine? We asked a lawyer.

Can your employer tell you to get a COVID-19 vaccine or lose your job?
Can your employer tell you to get a COVID-19 vaccine or lose your job?

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – While we are in a period of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, one pending variable that could prompt those on the fence to get a shot might be the potential threat of losing your job if you don’t.

So can your employer insist that you have a vaccination in order for you to work?

Labor and employment lawyer Brett Schneider says that employers do have the ability to mandate that employees get vaccinated.

“If you have everyone back in the office and somebody gets COVID and it spreads through the office, that is going to have a major impact not just on employee health but the overall health of the business if you can’t have people working,” Schneider, the manager director of the Boca Raton office and chair of Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman’s Labor and Employment Division, says.

Two exemptions would be employees who say they cannot get vaccinated because of medical reasons or a sincerely held religious belief.

“Otherwise, employers have very broad latitude to compel employees to get vaccinated,” Schneider says.

What if you still don’t want the shot and don’t meet the exceptions? He says employees can ask their boss for socially distanced or remote work arrangement.

“But as a matter of law, if you have an employer who has a strict compliance policy and you refuse to comply, an employer can terminate your employment,” Schneider says.

Especially since there is an ample supply and fairly easy access, he says.

But what about the fact that the COVID-19 vaccine is new and the Food and Drug Administration has approved it for emergency use?

“That argument is being made, but I am not aware of any cases that have found that it is a credible argument to defeat a vaccination requirement,” Schneider says.

Schneider points out that the politicizing of COVID-19 and the vaccine is having implications.

“COVID and how people react to COVID has become such a politicized issue to the extent that employers are adopting policies that are required. I think you are going to see more right-wing organizations or bodies looking to challenge those employers from doing that because they believe that making people get vaccinated is inapparent of their civil liberties and related arguments. So, I do think you are going to see lawsuits about this.”

However, Schneider says he is skeptical whether litigants will emerge victorious. “I have my doubts, but I think you will see litigation over this. Absolutely.”

About the Authors:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local 10.com.