Employers who make workers get COVID-19 vaccine may be pushing the legal envelope

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — More and more people are getting the COVID-19 vaccine, hoping to get one step closer to normalcy. As the vaccine rollout continues and restrictions are eased, some employers are getting stricter about workplace rules, even requiring vaccinations as a means of keeping their jobs.

Some employers require employees to get the flu vaccine unless they have a medical or religious issue. But this is different, said Sam Hodge Jr., professor of legal studies at Temple University. This is the first time in our history that a vaccine has been issued under an emergency order.

“It’s not like the flu vaccine, that has full FDA approval. So under FDA rules with emergency use, the recipient has the right to either get it or refuse it,” he said.

Some employers are reportedly firing workers who don’t get their shots or those who may not be eligible.

“We have a health concern, we have a religious concern. We also have a practical concern,” said attorney Mike Torchia, who specializes in business law. “Why would an employer mandate the vaccine if a large percentage of their employees are not able to get it?”

Many workers may be unable to get the vaccine right now because they are too young or don’t fit in the categories at the front of the line. He said employers have to consider all angles before firing a worker for not getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

“The strict legal answer is an employer can require an employee to get the vaccine before hiring them or from keeping them, but there are many landmines,” Torchia added.

Hodge said employers who force workers to get the vaccine are making a mistake.

“The end result: This is going to be litigated in the courts. There has never been a case like this before. This is a case of first impression. All the other cases have been issued under final approval of the FDA.”