If you don't want to get your COVID-19 vaccine, could your job be on the line?

Posted at 2:36 PM, Jun 24, 2021

(WXYZ) — We've seen cases around the country where people are risking their jobs when it comes to saying no to the COVID vaccine.


"This is a new issue. It's not like tried and true. And we're used to this. It's like, 'wait a minute, this is a medical procedure, how is it you're making me get a shot in my arm?' So it does strike some people innately, like 'I shouldn't have to do this,'" said Deborah Gordon, an employment and civil rights attorney.

And one does not have to get a vaccine, but there can be consequences. This week at Houston Methodist, 153 employees, including nurses for the Texas hospital, were fired or resigned after refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19. In Ann Arbor, Michigan Medicine is not requiring their employees to get vaccinated. The same is the case for Beaumont Health because the FDA has only approved it under emergency use.

"Because the FDA has not taken that last step to remove this emergency authorization, the government is not out there, forcing its employees to get the vaccine," said Gordon.

But what if your boss says you have to get the shot?

"Yes, your private employer can say to you, 'you must have a vaccine to work here. You must show proof of a vaccine to work here,'" said Gordon.

But what if your doctor says your body, for whatever reason, can't handle the vaccine?

"If you truly cannot get the vaccine for a medical reason, now we flip over to another law, which is the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the state disability discrimination act," said Gordon.

And that means your employer has to accommodate your situation.

"If your employer can accommodate a legitimate medical situation that you have, he must he or she must do so," she said. "So what does that mean with a vaccine? If you're immunocompromised, and you can come to work, but you cannot get a vaccine, your employer may say to you, 'you go work in the back office over here in a place that's remote, you have to wear a mask, you have to take other precautions, I can accommodate that. But you cannot be a part of our general workforce here. I'm not going to put others at risk.'"

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19, so long as employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other EEO considerations."

But if you just don't want to get the vaccine, like in Texas, don't be surprised if your employer gives you the axe. But some companies may not want to risk losing any workers. Gordon says just know what's on the line.

"This is going to continue to bubble up. Because we still have a certain number of people in the community, our population, that don't want to get vaccines," she said.