Can your workplace make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory?

Reporter: Dannielle Garcia Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:
A hypothetical vaccine passport being scanned. Credit: WINK News

If your workplace required you to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning, would you do it? Perhaps more importantly, is it legal for employers to make such a mandate?

According to Ben Yormak, an attorney based in Bonita Springs specializing in employment law, the answer is yes.

“Yeah, we’ve been getting a lot of phone calls from employees asking exactly that question,” Yormak said. “Unfortunately, the answer is that your employer generally can require the vaccine. There are certain exceptions, though, to it: The employer can’t be inquiring, you know, about medical related questions or anything like that. But there are potential exceptions for mandatory vaccines given any religious belief or disability that would prevent or put you at risk.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed an executive action that prohibited businesses from requiring the vaccine. But Yormak and other experts say private businesses can essentially do what they want. Businesses can decide who to welcome as long as it does not discriminate, and that includes incentivizing the vaccine.

“If you put yourself in the position of somebody that, you know, say, is undergoing chemotherapy, and they’re saying, ‘Why didn’t I get a $2,500 bonus for getting the vaccine? And everybody else in the office is? I would have gotten it if I could, but I can’t. Therefore, because I’m a person with a disability, I’m being treated less favorably than everybody else. That would be a valid claim,” Yormak said.

Yormak said most of the calls he has received have been from people with strong political beliefs, not a medical or religious exemption. When it comes to state-operated or state-funded facilities like public universities, however, that is when the governor could have a stronger case in court.

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