I’m Brittney Thompson, one of the employment attorneys at Bailey & Galyen. I wanted to take the time today to hit on a question that we have seen a lot of since the COVID-19 vaccination started to roll out—can my employer require me to get the COVID-19 vaccine? The short answer to that question is usually yes. Many are surprised by that answer, so I would like to take a moment to explain.
Employers can require employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine, so long as that requirement does not conflict with a sincerely held religious belief or pose a health risk due to a disability. If either of these two circumstances apply, you may ask your employer for an accommodation; however, this does not grant you an automatic exception. Your employer is only required to make reasonable accommodations of your religion or disability. Our courts have consistently held that accommodations that pose health and safety concerns to others are unreasonable. As with any workplace accommodation, this is considered on a case by case basis.
The bottom line is that your employer has an obligation to look out for the health and safety of its employees, customers, clients, patients, residents, etc. This is the reason that most of your employers have implemented policies and procedures to cut down on the risk of exposure and spread of COVID-19. Now that the COVID-19 vaccine is available, many employers are implementing policies requiring employees to receive the vaccine. There is nothing illegal about such a policy. If you refuse to comply with that requirement, your employer may legally terminate you.
Now, this does not mean that your employer can actually force you to receive the vaccine. If you refuse to receive the vaccine, you can either voluntarily leave your position or risk being terminated if your employer decides to enforce the policy. Again, such a termination is not illegal. Texas is a “right to work” or “at will” state, which basically means that an employer can terminate you for any reason or no reason at all so long as that reason is not an illegal one. This also means that you have the right to quit or resign from your employment for any reason, including a disagreement with the company’s policy on the vaccination.
The labor and employment section of Bailey & Galyen is eager to help you navigate through any discrimination occurring at the workplace. At Bailey & Galyen, we offer a free consultation with experienced employment attorneys and staff to give you a legal assessment and offer a path forward. Call me to discuss your employment situation today.