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If I refuse to be vaccinated, can I get fired from work? Doubts and controversy in the United States

The Department of Veterans Affairs of United States. The state of California. New York City. Hospitals and nursing homes. Colleges and universities. Employers began requiring their staff to be vaccinated against the Covid-19. The measure drew attention. But what happens if employees refuse?

A federal legal guideline issued this week indicates that the law is on the side of employers. Vaccination can be considered a “condition of employment” similar to being qualified for a job.

That said, labor attorneys believe that many companies will want to come to terms with undecided workers.

1-Can employers in the US require the coronavirus vaccine to workers?

-Yes. Private companies and government agencies can require their employees to be vaccinated as a work condition. Workers retain the right to refuse, but do not have a rigorous right to legal protection.

“Those with a disability or true religious beliefs may be able to access a reasonable accommodation in accordance with civil rights laws, provided that such accommodation does not pose an undue hardship to the employer,” explained Sharon Perley Masling, a labor attorney who leads a special unit for Covid-19 in the Morgan Lewis law firm.

Employees who do not meet those criteria “may need a license or seek other opportunities,” he added.

The US Department of Justice addressed the rights of employers and employees this week in a legal opinion. It examined an argument made by vaccine skeptics that the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act prohibits employees from forcibly requiring a vaccination at approved doses for emergency use only, which is the case with current vaccines against Covid-19.

The department’s attorneys wrote that the law in question provides that individuals be informed of their “option to accept or reject the application” of a vaccine or medication for emergency use.

But nevertheless, that provision does not prohibit employers from requiring mandatory vaccination as a “condition of employment”.

The same reasoning applies to universities, school districts and other entities that could claim to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, the lawyers said.

The available evidence overwhelmingly shows that vaccines are safe and effective.

Previously, a guideline from the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) noted that federal laws prohibiting discrimination in the workplace “do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees who physically enter the workplace be vaccinated against Covid-19 “.

EEOC mentioned some cases in which employers must grant exemptions. People who have a medical or religious reason can access alternative measures. These may include getting weekly exams, wearing masks while in the office, or working remotely.

2- Who is demanding the vaccine?

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs became the first major federal agency Monday to require healthcare workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Also Monday, the state of California said it will require millions of state and health care employees to show they are already vaccinated or have diagnostic tests every week. And New York City require all its municipal employees, including teachers and police officers, to be vaccinated by mid-September or they will be given weekly exams.

President Joe Biden said Tuesday that he is considering the possibility of requiring the vaccination of all federal employees.

In the corporate world, the vaccination requirement was more gradual. Delta and United airlines require their new hires to show that they are already vaccinated. Goldman Sachs is requiring its staff to disclose their vaccination status, but not to be vaccinated.

Michelle S. Strowhiro, a labor consultant and attorney at McDermott Will & Emery, said there are costs to employers for requiring vaccinations. There is the administrative burden of monitoring compliance and managing exemptions. They could also be presented accusations of discrimination.

But in the end, the rise in infections with the delta variant and in fully inoculated people served as “additional motivation for employers to take a stronger stance on vaccination in general,” Strowhiro added.

“Employers are going to be more and more aware of forced vaccination,” he remarked.

3- Is there another alternative besides compulsory vaccination?

Instead of requiring the vaccine, some companies try to encourage employees by offering them cash bonuses, paid break times, and others. perks. Walmart, for example, offers a $ 75 bonus to employees who prove they are vaccinated. Amazon is giving workers a bonus of $ 80 if they show proof of vaccination and new hires receive $ 100 if they received the injection.

4- What options do employees have if they do not want to be vaccinated?

Most employers may give workers a few options if they don’t want to get vaccinated. For example, New York City and California imposed the so-called “lenient obligation”: employees who do not want to be vaccinated can choose to have a weekly exam.

If an employer imposes a strict requirement, employees can request an exemption for medical or religious reasons. Then, according to EEOC civil rights regulations, the employer must facilitate a “reasonable accommodation that does not pose an undue hardship to the operation of the employer’s business.”

Some alternatives could include wearing a mask in the workplace, social distancing, a modified schedule, Covid-19 tests or teleworking, or even a reassignment.

5- Will the obligation in the jobs help to reverse the doubts about vaccines?

It is too early to say.

“Every employer that opts for mandatory vaccination paves the way for other employers to feel confident taking the same stance,” Masling said.

A recent court ruling could help boost vaccination. In June, a federal court in Texas rejected an attempt by medical workers to challenge the legality of the Covid-19 vaccination requirement at Houston Methodist Hospital. The court determined that the obligation conformed to public policy.

Dorit Reiss, a law professor and vaccine policy specialist at the University of California Hastings School of Law, said “more companies will have the confidence that they can demand vaccination.”

Reiss believes that most companies will opt for lenient enforcement with alternatives for employees who remain reluctant.

“It seems to me that it is a reasonable option,” he said.

Fuente: The Associated Press

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