CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – Can employers require employees to get vaccinated? The short answer is yes, and if you’re someone who refuses, you could be out of a job.
The only two reasons someone can refuse the shot are if they have a qualifying underlying health condition or deeply held religious beliefs.
However, even those reasons won’t be easy to prove, according to West Virginia employment attorney Richard Walters.
“We’ve seen a little of both come through with some of the employers I represent. One of the underlying health conditions I’ve seen was an individual that received the first shot had an adverse reaction, so her doctor recommended that she not get the second shot. So, she has a doctor backing her up,” Walters said.
If you are trying to get an exemption based on religious beliefs, you can’t just say it. You have to prove you’ve sustained these beliefs consistently.
“For those individuals that are trying to get the deeply held religious [exemption], because of the manner in which the vaccines were developed, what they are starting to find out is the COVID-19 is not the only thing developed in that manner,” Walters said. The attorney said things like ibuprofen and Tylenol would also be in violation of such religious beliefs.
The forthcoming regulation from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires all companies with more than 100 employees require workers to be vaccinated or get tested weekly. The OSHA rule hasn’t gone into effect yet, but many companies are already acting to mandate vaccines with limited exceptions. Employers will have to take things on a case-by-case basis to determine if a reason for exemption is legitimate.
“As an employer, you have to be careful of what you pry into when it comes to an underlying health condition. Just because you have an underlying health condition, doesn’t mean I have the right to get into all your medical files. I have the right to verify that that exists,” Walters said.
In the coming weeks, more than 100 million Americans will be subject to vaccine requirements ordered by President Joe Biden. His administration is encouraging employers to take additional steps voluntarily that would push vaccines on people or subject them to onerous testing requirements.
“Look, I know that vaccination requirements are a tough medicine — unpopular to some, politics for others — but they’re lifesaving, they’re game-changing for our country,” Biden said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.