Can Your Employer Require You to Get the Covid-19 Vaccine?

doctor holding up a syringe filled with the Covid-19 vaccine

When the COVID-19 vaccine came out, many California workers couldn’t wait to get it. But not everyone.

Maybe you’re concerned that the vaccine came out too quickly and could have long-term side effects that aren’t apparent right now. 

If so, you’re not alone: last December, the Kaiser Family Foundation published a report indicating that 27% of those surveyed probably or definitely would not get the shot even if it was free and scientists deemed it safe.

In California, workers are now wondering if they can be fired for refusing the vaccine. Right now, the answer is not clear-cut.

Can Your Employer Create a Mandatory Vaccination Policy?

Generally, yes. But there are exceptions.

Mandatory vaccination is not new. The University of California, for example, requires anyone accessing its campuses to receive a flu shot.

According to a recent statement by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), California employers may require an employee to receive the COVID-19 vaccine if doing otherwise would jeopardize other employees, customers, or the worker themself. 

For example, if you work in retail as a cashier, your boss could argue that daily exposure to customers puts you at risk. On a similar note, if you are an optometrist, the company could claim that going unvaccinated makes you a danger to clients during close-up services like vision testing.

So What Are the Exceptions?

Right now, there are two exceptions to any workplace vaccination policy:

  • You are concerned that the COVID-19 vaccine will exacerbate an existing medical condition or disability.
  • Receiving the vaccine goes against a sincerely-held religious belief.

In either case, your employer should find a reasonable way to accommodate you, such as allowing you to work from home or, if you must be on-site, moving you to an area where you’re less exposed to co-workers and customers. 

However, if accommodating you creates too much of a burden, your employee may seek to terminate your employment. If this happens, you should always seek advice from a California employment law attorney. 

While we hope that most employers act in good faith, there is always the possibility that your company may try to remove any challenges to its vaccination policy instead of providing reasonable accommodation. If that happens, let us help.

Are you a California worker with vaccine questions for an employment attorney?

At Whitehead Employment Law, employment law is what we do — it’s what we’re passionate about, and it’s the sole focus of our law practice. 

We’re committed to effectively representing the rights of employees across the state of California — because we believe that everyone has the right to earn a living and provide for their family, free of unlawful discrimination and harassment. 

Our firm has won millions of dollars for employees all over California and we only take cases on contingency, which means we don’t get paid unless we win your case. Our fees come out of the court verdict or settlement with the company, so you don’t pay anything out of pocket. 

If you’d like our help evaluating your case and understanding the options available to you, we would love to help. 

Contact Whitehead Employment Law today at 949-674-4922 Consultations are free and confidential.

DISCLAIMER: This article does not provide legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.