By Jaklitsch Law Group on Sunday, January 13, 2013.
Can you be fired for refusing the flu shot? That’s a great question.
Many employers are now requiring employees receive a flu shot. But can an employer legally force you to get a vaccination or risk losing your job?
Unfortunately for those afraid of needles, the answer is generally “yes.” Employers can require that you get a flu shot in many cases.
Most employees in the workforce are considered “at-will” employees. That means that employers can fire you for any, or no, reason at all. So just as you could get fired for coming in late, using foul language, or bad work, you could also get fired for refusing a flu shot.
And these terminations have already happened, as the Indianapolis Business Journalrecently reported. Most flu shot-related firings affect healthcare workers, who are generally required to get flu shots and other vaccinations as a condition of employment.
But what about those who argue that they have privacy rights over their own body? Well, you do. You can refuse a flu shot. And you have the right to protect your body from shots and unwanted vaccinations. However, this doesn’t give you the right to work for an employer that wants a vaccinated workforce.
In other words, no one will physically force you to get a shot. You just may be jobless if you refuse one.
As for workers who are not at-will, you may have a right to refuse a flu shot and keep your job. This is especially true for union workers and those under employment agreements that spell out specific enumerated reasons for termination. If refusing a vaccination or flu shot is not one of those reasons, the employer typically may not unilaterally terminate you for such refusal.