Employers Permitted to Require Vaccination for Workers Returning To the Office
Houston Methodist Hospital faces a frivolous lawsuit from over 100 non-medical employees in a Texas hospital after the network required employees to get vaccinations. If staffers are not vaccinated by June 7, they risk suspension and termination. The network oversees eight hospitals and more than 26,000 employees.
Hospital CEO Marc Bloom notified employees of the new policy in April 2021. The attorney representing the employees argues that the policy constitutes illegal human experimentation and is a violation of the Nuremberg Code, a medical ethics code that requires voluntary consent to medical experiments, and a violation of Texas state policy. The employees filing the lawsuit claim that the policy is designed to boost the hospital’s profits at the expense of employees’ health.
The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) issued a new guidance stating that employers may legally require Covid-19 vaccinations to re-enter a physical workspace provided that reasonable accommodations are permitted for religious and medical reasons.
Several states, like Texas and Montana, have enacted laws forbidding private employers from requiring vaccinations at the workplace. Bizarrely, many of these same state governments forbid local governments from mandating masks.
Conversely, no states mandate their residents to get the Covid vaccination, though Ohio and California have enacted lotteries to encourage their citizens to get the shots.
Deputy sheriffs in North Carolina and a corrections officer in New Mexico have also filed lawsuits against their employers for enacting vaccine mandates. Like the Houston Methodist Hospital case, these cases allege that experiential drugs fast tracked by the FDA should not be mandated.
Is It Legal for Employers to Require Vaccinations to Return to the Office?
The general policy in most US states is that employment is at-will. This means that either the employer or employee may end the relationship at any time for any reason, as long as those reasons do not violate any local, state, or federal laws. So generally, an employer may mandate that employees take a certain vaccination.
However, some employees may request a reasonable accommodation based on religious or medical reasons. The Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act make it illegal to discriminate based on religion or disability if an employer can reasonably accommodate the employee. The EEOC has recognized that some employees may object to an employer vaccine mandate because of their religion and medical condition. Those employees may be exempt from vaccine requirements and may instead be asked to undertake other reasonable requirements, such as wearing a face mask and maintaining social distance in lieu of vaccination.
The complicated part is that states like Texas and Montana have made it illegal for employers to require vaccinations within their borders. Employers in those states would have to obey state law, though this policy may lead to undesirable consequences.
For instance, many employees may choose to stay at home or quit rather than return to a work environment where they might be exposed to Covid. Or those employers may leave those states or close their doors rather than face lawsuits from employees who may end up sick or carry the virus to vulnerable family members. While the former issue might be “solved” by cutting back social safety net programs, the risk of Covid-related litigation will continue to plague employers as long as Covid-19 is dangerous and employers cannot protect employees by mandating vaccinations and/or masks.
It begs the question as to who these anti-vaccination and anti-mask state laws are suppose to benefit, as both employers and a majority of employees would be best served by getting vaccinated and/or wearing masks. These absurd anti-vaccination and anti-mask laws apparently only appease a minority of employees – a fact that Houston Methodist Hospital management and employees know all too well. While the hospital is concerned with profits – it is a business after all – the best business for a hospital is to assure its patients and staff that they won’t get infected with a deadly virus. The vaccinations have been given to half the country without too many adverse side effects, so anti-vaccine lawsuits and laws are ham-fisted “solutions” looking for a problem.
Do I Need an Employment Lawyer?
If you believe that your employer has violated your legal rights as an employee, you should consult an employment lawyer for assistance. An employment law attorney can help protect your interests and defend your rights under the law. Your attorney can also assist you in filing a lawsuit against an employer.
Alternatively, if you are an employer who is being used by a worker, you should hire an employment law attorney immediately to represent you in court.