Can your employer require you to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

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BOSTON (TUSEN) – Now that the COVID-19 vaccine is on the rise and some universities have announced that it will be mandatory for students, people working from home are wondering: what will it take to bring me back in the office? Can my employer make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory?

“The answer may be very strong and definitive,” legal expert Jennifer Roman told WBZ.

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“The employer can require that, yes,” said labor attorney Patrick Curran.

“They probably can,” added Michael Ulrich, professor of health law at Boston University.

Safe to say – the jury is still out, but all three legal analysts who spoke to WBZ agree, the answer is probably yes: your employer has the right to force you to get vaccinated to come to work.

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“Vaccination mandates have been maintained for over a century by both government and employers, but these are generally well-known and well-established vaccines,” Ulrich explained.

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This is where the gray area comes in in this case: there is no roadmap or precedent for an emergency approved vaccine designed for the general population.

Because the COVID-19 vaccines themselves were approved by the FDA through emergency use authorization, they had to be accompanied by a warning: that the person taking the vaccine knew it was completely voluntary.

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“While an employer can mandate it, the employee should also be made aware that they really don’t need to be vaccinated if they don’t want to,” Roman explained. It’s the loophole, she says, that has the potential to create legal problems for companies that might want to impose vaccinations.

Yet to date, government and private entities have succeeded in making vaccines mandatory, thanks to the precedent set by the Supreme Court case Jacobson v Massachusetts in 1905, in which a Cambridge man did not want his vaccine. against obligatory smallpox. However, the Supreme Court sided with the state, ruling that “there are times when the government can infringe on your rights to some extent to protect you and everyone else,” Ulrich explained. .

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Another potential obstacle? “You might run into discrimination laws if someone says I have a disability or a religious exemption,” Ulrich said.

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Patrick Curran, a Boston employment lawyer, agreed. “There are administrative difficulties; you have potential liabilities, ”he told WBZ. Curran says he’s asked several customers to force vaccines on their employees in recent weeks, but most have decided against the practice. “It has become a very hot topic,” he said.

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