If there’s anything left to learn from this COVID-19 pandemic, it’s just how we turned medical advice into a political statement over and over again.
Masks have become a culture signal in this day and age, as those who admonish others in their abstinence of mask-wearing are often aligned with the left side of the political spectrum, and those who refuse to arbitrarily refuse to comply with mask-wearing ordinances are often on the right side of the aisle.
This has become one of the hottest debates in the nation as of late, with many believing that there is a slippery slope between being forced to wear a mask and complete totalitarianism.
But, if a mask if such an affront, how would we characterize a mandatory vaccine?
News of the development of three successful coronavirus vaccines—from Moderna, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca—dominated headlines when they were announced earlier in November. Now, as health officials decide exactly how doses will be doled out, some are beginning to wonder if there may come a point where they’ll be required to get inoculated as a condition of their job. But is it legal for a company to make that request? The answer is complicated, but here’s what the experts have to say about whether or not your employer can force you to get a COVID vaccine when it becomes available. Read on for the details, and for more about the vaccination process, check out If You’re This Age, You May Be Last to Get the COVID Vaccine, Fauci Says.
According to a report from NPR, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) previously stated in 2009 that employers are legally allowed to enforce flu vaccine requirements for staff—which would mean that COVID vaccines will likely follow that precedent. However, employees also retain the right to refuse any required vaccination on religious or medical exemptions, which are protected under strict federal anti-discrimination laws.
“Employment in the United States is generally ‘at will,’ which means that your employer can set working conditions,” Dorit Reiss, a law professor at the University of California, Hastings, who specializes in legal and policy issues related to vaccines, told AARP in September. “Certainly, employers can set health and safety work conditions, with a few limits.”
Experts agreed that, while the law may be on the employers’ side, the actual cost of litigating a multitude of challenges to the mandatory vaccination policy could overwhelm a corporation’s legal department and budget, making such a policy too expensive to truly enforce.
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