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Attorney weighs in on legality of vaccination mandates in the workplace

Vaccine trial
Posted at 7:09 PM, Dec 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-10 20:38:54-05

(WXYZ) — What if your employer required you to get the COVID-19 vaccine in order to be in the workplace? It's a discussion sure to be on the horizon.

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Joining 7 Action News 7 UpFront segment to talk about the legalities of that request is Terry Bonnette with Nemeth Law.

On whether or not vaccinations can legally be required at the workplace, Bonnette says yes but there may still be exceptions.

"For a private employer who is operating, it is perfectly legal to set health and safety standards for your employees and that would include a vaccine requirement," he added.

But there may be exceptions. Bonnette notes a case precedent with flu shots. He says that in these situations, the employer might be required to give an exception to the rule if an employee had an objection based on a disability or religious objection.

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However, in a pandemic the situation may vary because there is a more immediate threat to the health and safety of coworkers if a person refuses the vaccine, Bonnette explained. At that point, the employer may be in a place to decline that exception request.

Bonnette also says there's potential for the COVID vaccine to be at the bargaining table for union agreements.

"Certainly we'd have to look at the individual collective bargaining agreements of these agreements," he said. "Health and safety standards are something that would typically require negotiation with the union. But a lot of collective bargaining agreements are going to allow the employer to implement health and safety standards in a reservation of rights clause, or in a management of rights clause. So you really have to be careful about what that collective bargaining agreement actually says to determine if the employer has the right to unilaterally implement the mandate, or whether they would be required to bargain over it."

Watch Terry Bonnette's full 7 UpFront interview in the player above.