Date: August 19, 2021
WUSA9 spoke with TELG principal Nicholas Woodfield about the legality of vaccine mandates in the workplace. Nick confirmed that not only can private businesses require a vaccine, but they can also fire employees for refusing to comply.
“You can not hire anyone for a plethora of reasons, or not allow them to work in your office for a plethora of reasons."
Is it legal for private businesses to require vaccines?
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.
WASHINGTON — Vaccine mandates are popping up more and more, including from private companies and local governments. On social media, there are many critics, questioning whether these mandates are legal.
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According to Nick Woodfield from the Employment Law Group and Lawrence Gostin from Georgetown Law, a private company is able to require a vaccine for their staff and even terminate an employee if they refuse.
“In the United States, it’s mostly at-will employment,” said Gostin. At-will employment means an employer can dismiss or fire an employee without a warning and for any reason – on top of being able to fire them for regular violations or causes.
In a system with “at-will employment,” an employer can fire a staff member for any reason, so long as it is not discriminatory against a protected class.
“You can not hire people because they don’t like strawberries,” said Woodfield. “You can not hire people because they wear their baseball hats backwards in pictures on Facebook. You can not hire anyone for a plethora of reasons, or not allow them to work in your office for a plethora of reasons.”