Can employers require you to get vaccinated for COVID?

Florida

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – As more employers require their workers to get vaccinated, many viewers have asked 8 On Your Side what their legal rights are.

Employment attorneys are feeling the rush, too.

Ryan Barack of Kwall Barack Nadeau PLLC said his office has been inundated with calls in recent weeks — and most often, he has disappointing news for unvaccinated callers.

“If you want to keep the job, you have to get the jab,” said Barack. “In most instances, an employer can mandate as a condition of employment that an employee be vaccinated.”

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission just issued guidance on COVID vaccines, stating “the federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19.”

There are some exceptions — for example: people with a medical issue, a disability, or a religious objection. But having one of those conditions doesn’t automatically get you out of the shot. Cases are fact-specific and situation-dependent, and most people don’t qualify for an exemption.

“Even in those instances, it’s not a ‘get out of jail free’ or ‘get out of vaccine’ card,” Barack said. “It’s a question of is there another way, is there a reasonable accommodation that is specific, that can be done, for this one (person,) in this instance.”

Those “reasonable accommodations” could include working from home, working a different shift, wearing a mask, or frequent COVID testing, as examples.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled mandatory vaccinations are constitutional in the 1905 case Jacobsen v. Massachusetts.

There is no federal law requiring vaccines. They are typically required by employers or local entities, like school systems.

In May, Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill — based on his previous executive order — outlawing “vaccine passports,” which prevents businesses from requiring customers show they are vaccinated. But that law covers customers, not employees.

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