Employer vaccine mandates are legal

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – Companies are starting to require proof of vaccination against the coronavirus to stay on the job. Is that legal?

Some say no. People are protesting against vaccination requirements for workers at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. In other states, like Texas, lawsuits have been filed against companies who told workers to get the shot.

Joe Brennan, an employment lawyer and professor at the Vermont Law School, says people filing lawsuits are unlikely to win. He says there isn’t a federal law that stops companies from requiring a vaccine as a condition of employment.

“There are several protected reasons under federal law. So, the Americans with Disabilities Act or anything that’s linked to discrimination, like someone’s gender or race or something like that, would not be appropriate,” said Brennan. “But requiring a vaccine does not fall into any of those categories for most people.”

Brennan says it would be an issue when someone has a medical condition, for example. He says some companies, like child care centers, have required vaccines for years and the pandemic creates a unique opportunity.

“I don’t think employers necessarily want to create these rules that make it more difficult for them to hire, to retain employees and have all the management behind it,” he said. “So, I don’t see it as opening a floodgate of employers trying to create additional requirements.”

Brennan says according to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), the fact that the vaccine hasn’t been FDA approved hasn’t affected whether employers can require it.

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Janelle B. Smith

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