With many states declaring flu epidemics and with the spread of other communicable diseases, many employers, particularly in the health care industry, are requiring employees to receive vaccinations. Employees rightfully have concerns about being forced to receive a vaccination and so a common question is whether employers can force employees to be vaccinated against the flu or other diseases. Like most legal questions, the answer is not so simple. Today’s Long Island employment law blog explores the issue of whether employers can require employees to be vaccinated.
Employment at Will
The starting point to many employment law questions is the fact those most states, including New York, are employment at will states. Employment at will means that employers can hire or fire employees for nearly any reason at all, as long as the reason is not unlawful. Unless the employee was able to negotiate a contract which sets the terms of employment, employees generally remain at will so employers are free to impose all kinds of conditions on employment. One of the conditions an employer may place on an employee is that the employee be vaccinated against diseases, such as the flu. An employee may refuse to accept the vaccination, but in most cases, because the employee is “at will” the employer may fire the employee for not complying with a vaccination policy.