Health care workers are frequently exposed to various viruses, including the flu. For this reason, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommend that health care workers get the flu vaccine every year. Not only will this ensure that health care workers stay healthy, it will also prevent workers from transmitting the flu virus to their patients. But, does a health care worker have the right to refuse to get the flu shot or could this be grounds for termination?
Mandatory Flu Shot Policies
Many health care providers require all of their employees to get a flu shot every year or face consequences. Sometimes, workers who do not want to get a flu shot are required to simply wear masks over their faces when working around patients. But, most of these policies state that employees who refuse to get vaccinated could face termination.
Why Employees Refuse Flu Vaccinations
There are several reasons why an employee may refuse to comply with a mandatory flu shot program. Some employees may be opposed to getting the flu shot because of their religion. The flu vaccine contains pork byproduct, however the consumption of products made from pork is prohibited in Islam. Therefore, Muslim health care workers may refuse to get the flu shot because of their religious beliefs. Employers have a legal obligation to accommodate an employee’s religion, which means firing a Muslim employee over this decision could lead to a lawsuit.
People who have had bad reactions to the flu vaccine in the past may also refuse to get the shot. For example, someone with an egg allergy may have had a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine in the past. Employers have a legal obligation to accommodate these employees as well, which can make firing someone for refusing to get a flu shot more challenging.
Instead of immediately firing these employees, health care companies should first ask them to wear masks and other safety gear during the flu season. Employers can also transfer these employees to other positions that do not directly interact with patients. By doing this, employers can legally accommodate their employees without putting their patients at risk. But, if the employee refuses to comply with these requests, the employer may have a right to terminate him.
Have you been fired over your refusal to get the flu shot? If so, let the experienced wrongful termination attorneys at Armstrong & Vaught, P.L.C. fight to protect your rights in the workplace. Call our office at 918-582-2500, toll free at (800) 722-8880, or contact us online for a free consultation with a skilled attorney.