Labor attorney: Employers can require employees to get COVID-19 vaccine with exceptions

Employers can require employees to get the coronavirus vaccine, with certain exceptions.
Employers can require employees to get the coronavirus vaccine, with certain exceptions.(WJRT)
Published: Dec. 10, 2020 at 6:15 PM EST
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - With the COVID-19 vaccine possibly days away from being dispensed in Michigan, a labor attorney says employers legally can require workers to get the shot -- with some exceptions.

“An employer can require a preventive measure such as a vaccine,” said employment attorney Dean Yeotis.

He said there are exceptions and it comes down to two things: someone’s religious customs or if they have a disability, such as an autoimmune condition.

“When the threat is serious enough, even those type of challenges can be overcome,” Yeotis said.

So if the employer decides to still require an employee to get the vaccine and that person has a disability or religious belief that prevents them from receiving it -- now what happens?

“A lot of these situations are going to depend on the specific facts. One of the standards or terminologies they use is the direct threat standard,” Yeotis said.

That means an employer would be allowed under federal law to require an employee to get vaccinated if their failure to get it would be a direct threat to the workplace and other employees.

However, because many people are still working from home and not in the actual physical workplace environment, Yeotis said that potentially could mean there won’t be a direct threat -- and therefore, the employee in that situation may not mandate a vaccine requirement.

“It’s still new and we don’t know where all the legal fault is going to lie, but I think it’s reasonable to think that employers shouldn’t have to be overly concerned about being successfully sued,” Yeotis said.

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