A … hospital was sued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Pennsylvania federal court Friday, over allegedly firing six employees after it denied their request for a religious exemption from the flu vaccine.
According to the complaint, Saint Vincent Health Center maintained a policy that provided exemptions for medical or religious reasons, which allowed employees to wear face masks instead of receiving the violation. But it denied the exemptions in the case of the six employees, who were fired in January 2014.
So, can you require your employees to receive a flu shot as a condition of employment?
According to same EEOC that is suing the Pennsylvania hospital over this very issue, the answer is a qualified yes.
An employee may be entitled to an exemption from a mandatory vaccination requirement based on an ADA disability that prevents him from taking the influenza vaccine. This would be a reasonable accommodation barring undue hardship (significant difficulty or expense). Similarly, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, once an employer receives notice that an employee’s sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance prevents him from taking the influenza vaccine, the employer must provide a reasonable accommodation unless it would pose an undue hardship as defined by Title VII (“more than de minimis cost” to the operation of the employer’s business, which is a lower standard than under the ADA).
Thus, at least as far as the EEO laws are concerned, a private employer can require flu shots as long as you are willing to accommodate employees’ disabilities and religions.
Jon Hyman is a partner at Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis in Cleveland. To comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Hyman’s blog at Workforce.com/PracticalEmployer.