Can employers require coronavirus vaccines? Local attorney weighs in

As the United States prepares for a potential coronavirus vaccine in the coming days, Hawaii...
As the United States prepares for a potential coronavirus vaccine in the coming days, Hawaii News Now caught up with a Hawaii doctor who has first-hand knowledge of what it feels like to get the shot after being part of a clinical trial.
Updated: Dec. 9, 2020 at 10:32 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Could you be forced to take a COVID-19 vaccine, if your employer says you have to?

We could be around 24 hours away from the first vaccines for COVID-19 rolling out to different parts of the country and in Louisiana.

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Governor John Bel Edwards said our health care heroes will be first in line to get the vaccine, then nursing home residents.

But requiring vaccines is a pretty tricky subject. And while it looks like it won’t be required, it could be all up to what you do for a living.

RELATED: Gov. Edwards discusses state’s vaccine plan at White House

“Can an employer require it, probably so. Should an employer require it, probably not,” said attorney Jill Craft.

Craft has become an expert of sorts on employment litigation and says there are concerns with employers forcing their workers to get a shot.

RELATED: Gov. Edwards, Admiral Giroir outline plan for distributing COVID-19 vaccine in La.

“Part of the concern is that people have a religious right under Title 7, which is the anti-discrimination statute to refuse to have a vaccine if for religious reasons. They believe they should not or cannot. Similarly, you have protections for employees under the Americans With Disabilities Act,” said Craft.

A spokesperson with the Louisiana Department of Health tells WAFB, “The State of Louisiana will not be mandating that residents get vaccinated. Some facilities or employers may impose further expectations - but you’d need to speak with them about that.”

“You don’t think it’s going to be required under the law,” questioned WAFB’s Lester Duhe’.

“I don’t know how it can be required under the law because there are a lot of variables. I mean people are fundamentally different,” said Craft.

She says while you’re at work, your boss can tell you to wear a mask, wash your hands, and social distance.

But they can’t tell you what you can and can’t do on your own free time, like during the holiday season.

“Can I tell my employees, no you can’t see your grandma over Christmas, or you can’t have your children over? Absolutely not. I think that we have to recognize that people are going to do that, no matter what we tell them. It definitely infringes on an employee’s rights, that are generally recognizable under the First Amendment,” said Craft.

She also has some final advice to employers regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I’ve always been of the opinion, that if you give people information, the science, evidence, and you allow there to be a pre-dialogue, about options and things that we should do, that’s a much better alternative. It’s like I said. requirement is the last option, recommendation is the first,” said Craft.

While we are waiting for a vaccine to be available to the general public, Craft says bosses for now should use common sense measures to stop the spread of coronavirus, by wearing a mask and providing a safe work environment for employees.

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