Guiding your life’s biggest financial moments

Personal Finance

Can your boss force you to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

The COVID-19 vaccines are here, and most people are excited – but not everyone. What if you don’t want to get one, but your employer says, “No bang, no job? And other than that, is there a way for business and government to encourage voluntary vaccination rather than making it compulsory?

I posed the first question to Southern California labor attorneys Dan Klingenberger and Jay Rosenlieb, and the second question to Dr. Luis Vega, professor of psychology at California State University, Bakersfield.

Klingenberger: This is a huge question, and the answer may depend on the type of job. An employer in the healthcare sector, for example, may have greater rights and needs than an employer in the construction sector. If an employer requires their employees to be vaccinated, we are currently seeing at least two ways to challenge that:

  1. By raising a question of religious accommodation. “For religious reasons, I am opposed to receiving the vaccine.” In this case, the employer should determine if the employee has a “sincere religious belief” that would require accommodation. This can be a delicate process, but let’s assume the employee says enough for the employer to credit the request for religious accommodation. And suppose everyone is vaccinated. What could housing look like in this context? The employer could assess things like: Can the employee work remotely (thus not exposing others if the employee contracts the virus)? Is the employee’s job the one where he does not come into contact with other employees? If such accommodations are possible, how long will the accommodations work for both employer and employee?
  2. An employee may have medical problems or a disability that causes them to want to avoid getting the vaccine. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to take certain steps to consider reasonable accommodation at the request of a person with a disability. Examples of a disability that might be eligible include pregnancy or an underlying health condition that prevents receiving a vaccine, which would be up to a health care provider to determine.

However, an employer may have the right to require vaccination if it can be demonstrated that failure to obtain it would create undue hardship on the employer or pose a problem. direct threat to anyone working around that person. In addition, this could be the basis for refusing an accommodation request.

Rosenlieb: History has shown that even before the swine flu pandemic in 2009, the EEOC authorized mandatory vaccination programs. For example, compulsory influenza vaccines in the health sector are accepted, as well as compulsory hepatitis vaccination in the wastewater treatment industry.

It is clear to me that employers can require vaccination; the biggest question is, should they? To answer this question, they will need to examine their personal circumstances to determine the acceptable level of risk in requiring employees to receive the vaccine.

For example, an employer who has not had significant cases of COVID-19 at their workplace and is not in healthcare, the food industry, meat packaging, or wastewater may decide that it is not worth accepting the risk of an EEOC or ADA claim by requiring receipt of the vaccine. Some of these risks are that if the employee receives the vaccine and has a negative reaction, it could become a workers compensation claim.

OSHA requires employers to create a safe workplace. In California, Cal / OSHA has created several requirements related to COVID-19, including a written site-specific COVID-19 prevention program. The new emergency regulations do not impose vaccinations. However, if an employee does not take sufficient action to combat the virus, the employer could be cited by OSHA or Cal / OSHA.

Make the vaccine mandatory is a hot potato. I don’t believe employers should be required to have mandatory vaccination programs. See how difficult it is for us to demand face masks? It would be the same, only 10 times bigger. A mandatory vaccination program exposes the employer to poor media relations, negative comments on social media and disruption in the workplace.

Klingenberger: Employers should self-educate to ensure they are complying with government requirements and regulations related to policies that address COVID-19 preparedness. This will vary from state to state.

All employers should continue with their current prevention programs – masks, social distancing, temperature control – and on top of that, it makes sense for business owners and managers to consider sponsoring a voluntary on-site clinic and be the first. to roll out their sleeves and get vaccinated.

This will probably be the best form of encouragement and much better than ordering their employees to be vaccinated.

A few months ago, I wrote “The Psychology of the Scam,” based on my interview with Dr. Vega, a psychology professor whose professional interests include methods of persuasion. I asked Dr Vega why anyone would refuse a vaccine, knowing that nearly 2 million people worldwide have died from COVID-19. His answer made us take a little detour through the world of literature:

“Shakespeare describes how two young lovers – who said they were not free to love each other – chose to exercise ultimate free choice and committed suicide.

“The feeling of losing one’s freedom evokes a strong need to regain it, which psychologists call the Romeo-Juliet effect. The mandates for the COVID-19 vaccination could make some people oppose the vaccination, as it gives them the impression of losing their freedom of choice at the cost of a fatalistic and Shakespearean outcome, where even death preserves a feeling of freedom, however irrational it may be. ring.

“Ideally, government and business will encourage everyone to realize that they have a choice to act, and your best bet is to accept the COVID-19 vaccine, which for many will be a matter of life and death. It means focusing on what we stand to lose by not taking the vaccine. “

“Dennis, let me draw a parallel with a common reaction of people – paralyzed with fear – and unable to save themselves in plane crashes, cruise ship disasters and fires.

“To avoid inaction and paralysis, we need to tell people what to do and provide a roadmap for overcoming fear. The thought of dying from COVID-19 is frightening to most of us, yet even with a preventative vaccine against disease, some inaction is to be expected – the rejection of people who walk at the pace of a different drummer.

“We have a good chance of reversing it by providing the solution, which is vaccination. The more we explain how vaccinations work, the better. And when the people we are looking to take the vaccine, we will see the “monkey-see-monkey-do” effect.

I asked him to explain the mechanics of how the ape-see-ape-do effect works.

“It’s important to see other people like us getting vaccinated. When we find companies and governments in the same group – the same boat – all receiving the vaccine, it avoids a feeling of ‘us-them separation’, ”he notes.

Of course, some people – for medical or other personal reasons – will not want to be vaccinated. Those who refuse to take it for religious or other reasons may find these positions difficult to maintain, and this is something the legal system will address. But what about someone who just says, “I don’t want to shoot and I don’t care what other people think. It’s my right !

“Of course, some people will choose not to get the vaccine,” observes Vega, “and it reveals the separation“ us-them ”through the differences:“ we ”taking the vaccine as normal,“ them ”don’t. not taking, reckless, out of the norm.

Professor Vega concluded our discussion in a way that would have made old Bill Shakespeare proud:

“As humans, we strive to have a sense of belonging; feeling different marginalizes us, and we don’t like it, not at all. The ape-see-ape-do effect narrows the differences, and those who don’t follow will feel the pressure to conform or be marginalized.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply