LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine continue. As we enter the flu season with the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, questions about mandatory vaccinations at work are becoming more important than ever.
13 Action News spoke with a local attorney to find out if employers can require you to take the COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available.
Healthcare attorney Ayesha Mehdi with Spencer Fane says the answer is "it depends" but there are limitations and gray areas if an employer chooses to do so. It may not always be clear. Mehdi says there are two possible scenarios that could happen in Nevada.
"It depends. If the state has a mandatory law that requires everybody to take the vaccine then we have a situation. Especially employers such as hospitals and universities where you risk the health of other people. Definitely they will be able to force people to get vaccines if the state mandates it." Mehdi adds, "Another scenario is when the employer has it in his contract. And you signed the contract and you agree. So that would be another way that they could mandate you to get the vaccine."
Legal experts believe it is unlikely for federal government to order mandatory vaccines but some cities and states can decide to do so once there are enough doses for everyone.
Mehdi explains there are people who can be legally be exempt from taking the vaccine and there are also consequences. Employers can make “reasonable accommodations” for religious reasons and disabilities protected by the ADA. But the employer needs to determine that in doing so, the exempt employee would still be able to perform essential job functions without compromising your colleague’s safety.
"If the vaccine is mandated by the state or it’s in the contract and the employee doesn’t fall under any exemption, religious or medical exemption then the employer can simply fire the employee because we are an at-will state. So the employer has every right to let go and there will be no consequences for the employer."
According to Mehdi, your personal social and political beliefs and debate over the vaccine’s effectiveness are not legally protected reasons to refuse your employer’s orders to get vaccinated.
In similar cases for example regarding the flu shot, both OSHA and the EEOC advise employers to encourage and not require the flu shot, they also say employers can require you to get the flu shot especially if the flu is severe. But you must be informed of its benefits and employers should protect the privacy of your medical information.