Can employers force workers to get vaccinated? Here's what we know

Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

Los Angeles and a growing number of other government entities are taking a new stand in the fight against the coronavirus.

They are requiring employees to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing to show they are negative for the illness.

The move gets to the heart of an issue that both public and private employers have been grappling with: Can companies require workers to be vaccinated?

This is something that will surely be litigated in the courts in the coming months and years as more employers demand vaccinations.

California officials said Monday that state employees and healthcare workers would soon be required to show proof they've been vaccinated or undergo regular testing. New York City declared similar plans.

San Francisco and Pasadena, Calif., have also announced future vaccination requirements for their employees; both cities have hitched their requirements to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's granting full formal approval to at least one of the COVID-19 vaccines now under emergency authorization. The University of California system also announced last week it would require vaccines for all students, faculty and others for the fall term.


What are the legal issues?

Legal experts said many of the specific questions surrounding COVID-19 vaccination requirements are being hashed out in court.

Healthcare and child-care workers have frequently been required to have certain immunizations, but broader rules covering all employees have been less common in recent history, generally because people are expected to have been vaccinated against illnesses as children, said Lindsay Wiley, a professor at American University Washington College of Law.

Wiley said those who have challenged COVID-19 rules have argued that government agencies cannot mandate a vaccination that has emergency authorization, rather than formal FDA approval, and that such rules violate individual rights or infringe on religious liberty.


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