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Fight the Flu: Implementing Mandatory Flu Vaccines

Published:  January 17, 2014

Some businesses host “Flu Vaccination Clinics,” but can you make getting a flu vaccine mandatory?  Some employers can require that their employees get a flu vaccination as long as they have an objective business reason to require the vaccine.

If an employee objects to this requirement, the employer has an obligation to discuss this objection with that employee to determine why they object and what alternative measures may be reasonable in its place. In some circumstances, you may have an employee who objects to the vaccine because of their religious beliefs or because of their medical condition.  For example, if you have an immune deficient employee who does not want the flu vaccine because it will make him or her sick, a reasonable accommodation may be required and you must engage in interactive dialogue with that employee.  For instance, this employee may need to wear a mask instead of taking the vaccine.

Similarly, this accommodation may be appropriate where you have an employee whose faith prohibits the use of vaccines.  It is important to note that if faced with a discrimination claim based on religion, the court is not going to consider whether the belief is a commonly recognized religion or whether the employee’s belief is sincere when determining if an employer adequately considered a reasonable accommodation.  For example, a federal court allowed a religious discrimination claim to continue where an employee refused to be vaccinated claiming her religious belief was veganism.

If your business decides to create a policy mandating vaccinations make sure you are able to state why these vaccinations are essential, that you have an avenue for employees to object to the mandate, and that a process for considering the employee’s objections and how you may accommodate the employee is available.  Employers faced with objections to a mandatory flu vaccination policy would be wise to consult with employment counsel before taking action.

If you have any questions regarding reasonable accommodations or discrimination, please contact any of the attorney’s at Royal LLP at (413) 586-2288.