Date: June 10, 2021
CBS 6 News interviewed TELG principal Nicholas Woodfield about whether employers can require workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine and whether not complying can lead to termination. Nick said a judge would likely side with an employer – even if the employee has an exemption.
"The employer can still exclude you because you are no longer qualified to be there because you are potentially a danger in the workplace."
Chesterfield official requiring all employees to be vaccinated: Termination is last resort
IMPORTANT: COVID-19 guidelines are subject to change. For a reliable, up-to-date look at how the pandemic is affecting workplace laws and rules, our firm recommends that you review the “What You Should Know” page maintained by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
(Transcribed by The Employment Law Group)
Candace Burns (anchor): Can your employer fire you if you don’t get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Bill Fitzgerald (anchor): Workers at the Chesterfield Office of Revenue say that’s what they’re being told may happen if they don’t get the shot.
Our Brendan King spoke to an employment attorney to find out what your rights are. He joins us with that update. Brendan.
Brendan King (reporter): As more of us are getting vaccinated against the coronavirus, bosses are encouraging employees to return to the workplace, and tonight, one elected official in Chesterfield is setting the record straight on her new vaccination policy.
This letter obtained by CBS 6 has caused quite a stir.
Jenefer Hughes: I’ve had a few calls and emails, yes.
King: Chesterfield County Commissioner of the Revenue Jenefer Hughes writes she placed her employee on corrective action for failing to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Unless that employee is approved for a medical or religious exemption, she says they must vaccinated before June 30th or potentially face disciplinary action up to termination.
Hughes: I can’t live with myself if there’s any risk to a taxpayer or an employee coming into my office potentially contracting the virus and taking that to their families. I just can’t.
King: Hughes says 82% of her staff is vaccinated or going through that process. Those who are exempt will wear a mask in the office.
Hughes: I’ll bend over backwards to help them get to a place where we can retain them.
Nicholas Woodfield: Management has the right to force people into that crossroads, but is it something that you want to do?
King: Nick Woodfield serves as an attorney specializing in employment law based in D.C. He says an employer can require vaccinations before returning to the workplace – even if the vaccines received emergency approval.
Woodfield: Employers have not only a right but a duty to not create a dangerous workplace.
Ralph Northam: From the governor’s position, I’m not mandating anyone to get vaccinated.
King: Governor Ralph Northam says he’s left it up to the discretion of employers for how they want to deal with mandating the shot.
Northam: We have three effective and safe vaccines, and the only way to get this pandemic in the rearview mirror is for folks to get out there and get vaccinated.
King: Woodfield believes that a judge would side with the business owner, and if you do receive a vaccine exemption, your boss can still let you go.
Woodfield: The employer can still exclude you because you are no longer qualified to be there because you are potentially a danger in the workplace.
King [to Hughes]: So you told me termination is a last resort?
Hughes: Absolutely, yes. I do not want to lose a single person.
King: And I did reach out to the county for a comment. A Chesterfield spokesperson tells me while they are not mandating their employees to get the vaccine, since Hughes was elected to her post, she can set whatever policy she wants.