Can Hospitals Require Employees to Get the Flu Vaccine?

Carolyn Buppert, NP, JD

Disclosures

September 30, 2010

Question

Many hospitals are mandating that all employees receive the flu vaccine. Some are making it a requirement for employment. Is this legal and what rights do employees have in this regard?

Response from Carolyn Buppert NP, JD
Attorney, Law Office of Carolyn Buppert, PC, Bethesda, Maryland

Yes, it is legal for a hospital to require the influenza vaccine for employees. Your employer cannot force you to receive the vaccine, but the employer can make vaccination a condition of employment. So, if you refuse, understand that it may cost you your job. Some employers will consider exceptions on the basis of religion. And, if the vaccination violates some other principle you hold dear, then you might respond respectfully with a letter explaining why you don't want the vaccination. However, the employer is not required to accept your argument.

The requirement for the flu vaccine is no different from schools requiring students to show proof of immunizations in order to go to school. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all healthcare workers be vaccinated against the flu, but the CDC does not take a position on mandatory requirements by hospitals.[1]

Employees have only a few legal rights, such as the right not to be sexually harassed, the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of age, gender, race, etc., and the right to free speech. You could sue an employer for negligence if the employer subjected you to unsafe working conditions. But the flu vaccine has been proven safe, and one could argue that it is a safety precaution to require the vaccination.

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