Can my employer fire me due to not taking the Covid-19 vaccine?
4 attorney answers
Unless your religion does not allow the vaccination or your medical provider advises you not to get vaccinated due to your medical condition, your employer may fire you as an at-will employee for any lawful reason, including a view that you are unwise to not get vaccinated and a liability to the employer if not vaccinated in that you may get Covid and get very sick or worse, causing you to miss work or more work than you otherwise would. When employees miss work, the employer suffers from lack of work performance and paid sick leave, if applicable.
At this point in time the best answer I can give you is yes, you can be terminated unless your reason for refusing the vaccination is based on a closely held religious belief or a medical disability.
In California employees are considered to be employed at will unless there is an agreement to the contrary with the employer about that status. An at will employee can be terminated at any time and for any reason, or even no reason at all. The only limitation on that very broad right is if the reason is based on your membership in a protected class of people or it is in retaliation for engaging in some kind of legally protected conduct.
At this point in time there is no case law, statute or long-standing fundamental public policy that would say you are allowed to refuse the vaccine and doing so would legally protect you against retaliation. Therefore, it is likely - unless the law changes by legislation or case law - you can be terminated for refusing to take the vaccine.
As I noted earlier, if you have a closely held religious belief, as at least one large religion does, that you should not be vaccinated, then you have a different situation and it may be that the employer would have to reasonably accommodate you. Also, if you have some kind of medical condition that would make taking the vaccine a bad idea, go to your doctor, get a note, give it to your employer, and that note would trigger a duty for the employer to reasonably accommodate you if one can be found.
Good luck to you.
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In my view you can be terminated as an at-will employee at any time for any reason, or no reason at all, barring any discriminatory or retaliatory motivation or otherwise contractual obligation. Your employer also has obligations to institute procedures that will protect the health and safety of his/her employees.
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There is a split of opinion in the legal community concerning the permissibility of
employer-mandated vaccination with the currently available COVID-19 vaccine regimes. The
uncertainty stems from (1) the ambiguity of controlling federal statute; and (2) the dearth of
current on-point case law.
The three currently available COVID-19 vaccines were authorized under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), and any person carrying out any activity for which an EUA is issued must inform individuals receiving the drug of their “option to accept or refuse administration of the product, of the consequences, if any, or refusing administration of the product, and of the alternatives to the product that are available and their benefits and risks.” The open questions is whether the Act’s language solely addresses the actions of federal officials or also private employers.
Given the current dearth of controlling case law and a plain reading of the Act, a prudent California employer should only require employees to provide EITHER (i) a recent negative test result (with the employer paying for the tests) or (ii) proof of vaccination.