Can your employer make you get the COVID-19 vaccine?

The short answer is yes

This week the first Floridians outside of a clinical trial got the COVID-19 vaccine including employees at AdventHealth.

As the vaccine continues being rolled out, employers are prioritizing which employees will get it first but can your employer require you to get the vaccine?

This week Seminole County leaders discussed whether the vaccine should be required for some of their employees.

Alan Harris is the Chief Administrator of the Office of Emergency Management in Seminole County.

“The leadership team has certainly discussed how we would provide vaccines to the employees,” Harris said.

County leaders have already been met with questions about whether the vaccine will be required, according to Harris.

“There have been some concerns from citizens as well as our employees that there would be some type of mandate,” Harris said.

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Florida Statute 381.0035 does allow the State Health Officer, during a public health emergency to order an individual to be vaccinated, but the statute stops short.

Shannon Kelly is a shareholder with Allen Norton and Blue in Orlando and has extensive experience litigating employment claims.

She says Florida is a right to work state which still gives employers great leeway.

Can your employer require you to get the vaccine? “For private, non-unionized employers, the short answer is likely yes, they would be able to require it,” Kelly said.

For unionized workforces, a vaccine mandate would likely be the subject of collective bargaining, according to Kelly.

Any employer considering making the vaccine mandatory should be prepared to make accommodations, like for someone who has a medical reason not to get vaccinated.

“Yes, I mean, that would be a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, it may also be a religious accommodation, that would be necessary as well,” Kelly said.

Employers could be liable if the vaccine is required and an employee has an adverse reaction, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Back in Seminole County, they are hoping most employees want to have the vaccine.

“Covid has been around for a long time,” Harris said. “Those that haven’t gotten it at this point, why not go a couple more months with some safety protocols and then get the vaccine and be done with this,” Harris said.

Seminole County expects the vaccine to be available to some of its employees within the next couple of weeks and they say it will not be required.

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