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Can Employers Require Vaccines Before Hiring?

If it can happen in the “Happiest Place on Earth”, then why can’t it happen at my office? That is a question many employers are asking themselves after a recent multi-state measles outbreak was linked to Disneyland in California.

When measles first hit Disneyland back in December, several employees were infected. The company asked workers who may have had contact with the illness not to come back to work until they showed proof of immunity. And Disney footed the bill for those who needed to update their vaccines.

What about your workplace? Do employers have any responsibility to check the vaccination status of their staff, even when there’s no imminent outbreak? What do you do if they refuse to be vaccinated?

In some circumstances, it is legal (and advisable!) to terminate an employee who is not vaccinated and refused to receive a vaccine. Hospitals, specifically, are one place where it makes complete sense to require employees to be vaccinated. The risk to patients is so high that every nursing school and med school requires students to be vaccinated before they start training. Several states have laws mandating hospitals to either offer vaccines to new staff or ensure that new employees are vaccinated before starting work (with certain exceptions for disabilities and religious beliefs).

So, yes, some employers can and should require vaccines before hiring. However, most office workers don’t present risks that would justify mandatory vaccination. If you work in a private office, you’re probably not at greater risk of getting measles than the general population, and it could be difficult to prove vaccination is necessary for the job.

Workplaces like Disneyland (or schools, malls, and other mass destinations) fall somewhere in between these two examples. Whether it’s wise or not, many businesses find it doesn’t make sense to require proof of vaccination, just because of how unwieldy and expensive the process can be. It could potentially leave your company vulnerable to a hiring discrimination suit under certain circumstances, as well.

Do you have a question about what your business should require of employees and potential hires? Contact the employment screening experts at KRESS! We’ll help craft a customized plan of action to suit your organization’s specific hiring needs. Always consult with a good employment attorney to assist with drafting a plan that suits your organization’s specific hiring needs.

Contact KRESS if you would like a recommendation – we know all the best employment attorneys and professionals!

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