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Can Florida employers force workers to get the flu shot?

There has been a lot of information in the news lately about the influenza vaccine. In fact, your employer may even be encouraging you to get the shot or perhaps your workplace has even set up free flu shot clinics.

Some workplaces do this just in order to avoid having a large number of staff out sick, but others do this because employees work with the public. For example, some employers, such as hospitals, are actually requiring workers to get vaccinated. Unfortunately, some employees who have gone against such orders have been fired. Is this legal?

Florida is an at-will employment state, which basically means that employers can fire workers for pretty much any reason as long as the reason is not contrary to an existing employment contract or federal or state employment laws such as Title IX of the Civil Rights Act.

So, in many cases it may be legal to fire someone for refusing to get a flu shot. However, if the worker has a health condition that a flu shot may exacerbate, for example, that worker may be protected from termination for refusing the shot under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Those who are members of certain religions that prohibit medical care may also be able to refuse a flu shot and avoid employment consequences under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act.

This is a complicated issue and it may be very risky for workers to refuse flu shots. Private employers do have the right to ask workers to be vaccinated and in many cases they might have the right to terminate workers for failing to do so. Nonetheless, those who are being forced by their employers to obtain a flu shot against their will--or who have been fired for refusing--may be wise to seek legal counsel.

Source: Fox Business, "Do Employees Have the Right to Refuse Flu Shot?" Kate Rogers, Jan. 18, 2013

Source: Bay News 9, "Some nurses face firing for refusing flu shot," Natalie Tolomeo, Jan. 15, 2013

  • For more information about your employment law rights here in Florida, please visit our law firm's Employment Law page.

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