Getting Answers: Can your employer make you get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Investigators

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Wednesday marks one year since North Carolina reported its first case of COVID-19, and yet, there are still many questions about the virus.

One of those involves mandatory workplace vaccines and Consumer Investigator Steve Sbraccia contacted several organizations to find out more in answer to a viewer question.

Teachers in many school districts are now getting the vaccine, but it’s not mandated as a condition of employment.

However, a CBS 17 viewer, who asked us not to use his name, has been told by his employer that a COVID-19 vaccine was mandatory and if he didn’t get it – he wouldn’t be allowed back until after the pandemic ends.

He wants to know if it’s a law or rule and if employers can mandate it.

It’s a question many are pondering.

Raleigh resident Michael Garrett doesn’t think employers should require vaccine for employment.

“I don’t think you should try to make someone get it,” he said. “You should suggest it.”

Janet Collins has the opposite view, believing vaccines should be mandatory.

“If you don’t want to get the shot, go work somewhere else,” she said.

CBS 17 put the question of mandatory workplace vaccinations to Molly Hegeman of Catapult, an employers organization serving 2,300 companies as an HR resource.

“What we’re seeing is most organizations are not mandating that the vaccine be taken,” she said.

We asked her about the viewer’s specific complaint that he would have to get the vaccine or be disciplined or terminated.

“For companies doing that, I think there’s a couple of cautions there,” she said. “One of which is, there could be reasons some choose not to take the vaccine and they are protected under the ADA.”

For more on that question, CBS 17 also spoke to the Noth Carolina Department of Labor which said that “It couldn’t provide legal advice to the public regarding the vaccinations.”

The agency also said “It has no jurisdiction regarding employers requiring that employees receive vaccinations.”

The North Carolina Department of Labor pointed CBS 17 to the Equal Opportunity Commission website which said: “An employer may incentivize employees to take the COVID-19 vaccine and an employer may mandate that staff take the vaccine.”

However, the EEOC said “every employer must provide accommodations to employees under the Americans with Disabilities Act”

North Carolina is an “at-will” state, meaning you can be terminated at the employer’s whim.

“You can fire people for any reason,” said Hegeman. “But, is that a good choice right now just because someone is not going to take the vaccine? Probably not.”

Mandatory employee vaccination also runs into other problems.

“The issue is more about availability,” said Hegeman. “Also, there are a lot of people who won’t be eligible to be vaccinated for months on end.”

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