San Diego County

Labor Attorneys Explain Rules Surrounding Employer Vaccine Mandates

Amid the most recent surge in coronavirus cases, businesses both large and small are rolling out plans to require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19

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As people look to return to the office, more and more businesses are requiring employees to be vaccinated or risk termination. But many people wonder if these new requirements are legal and what options are available to employees who refuse to get vaccinated.

“It is clear that both Federal and California state law generally permits employers to mandate vaccines,” University of San Diego Law Professor Miranda McGowan said.

According to legal experts, it is largely within an employer’s rights to require vaccination unless there is a medical or religious exemption.

“The Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII, requires employers to accommodate the disabilities of others or their religious beliefs,” McGowan said.

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a state mandate requiring healthcare workers to be vaccinated by Sept. 30.

After the governor's announcement, local health care systems Sharp Health and Scripps Health announced their new vaccination policy.

Sharp HealthCare will require their employees to be vaccinated or undergo twice-weekly COVID-19 testing and Scripps Health will require their employees to be vaccinated by Sept. 30 or potentially be terminated.

“There is actually a federal case in Houston right now where healthcare workers at Houston Methodist hospital lost their jobs for failing to comply with the employer mandate," University of San Diego Law Professor Richard Barton said. "They took it to court, and it’s still in court, but a federal district court judge rejected the claims by the employees that they could not be terminated."

NBC 7 interviewed San Diegans who fell on both sides of the issue.

“I feel like it’s a very drastic step. Obviously, everyone wants to move forward, leave the 2020 stuff behind, but I feel like that’s the necessary steps to take. Then I feel like it’s okay,” San Diego Resident Kyree Woods said.

Some San Diegans are opposed to the vaccination mandates being implemented by companies.

“I think as humans and citizens of the United States we should make our own decisions. So, if we are going to force some sort of vaccine upon us that I feel we don’t know enough about, I just think it’s going against our rights,” San Diego Resident Jeffrey Discher said.

An area that remains unknown to legal experts is if an employee that is terminated for refusing to get vaccinated is eligible for unemployment.

According to legal experts NBC 7 spoke with, such cases will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and depends on if it was decided that the employee had a medical or religious exemption along with how the policy was implemented.

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