Can I be forced to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Posted on August 18th, 2020 in Civil Right

As the world prepares for a potential end to the novel coronavirus with a vaccine, it’s no surprise that many Americans are skeptical about receiving a vaccine this quickly. In fact, reports suggest that only two-thirds of adults would willingly get the vaccine. While that may or may not protect them from COVID-19, that is not enough to develop widespread herd immunity. But, can you be forced to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Current Legislation On Mandatory Vaccination – COVID-19 Vaccine

While on face value it may seem unbelievable that vaccines can be legally required, the reality is that in some states and regions, they already are.

In the historic Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905) case, a Massachusetts law was questioned for allowing cities to require residents to be vaccinated against smallpox with some exceptions.

The constitutionality of the law was questioned as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment right to liberty. However, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the law was within the state’s police power to protect the public health and safety of citizens as the mandatory vaccines were not unreasonable or arbitrarily imposed.

Though this case is now nearly 115 years old, states still utilize the judgment when it comes to vaccination policies. For example, in the 2019 measles outbreak, New York City mandated that individuals over six months old who lived, went to school, or worked in a variety of ZIP codes had to receive the measles vaccine or be subjected to a fine.

While a federal mandate on vaccination is unlikely, it is not unreasonable to believe that it could happen at a state level. However, could an employer force you to receive the COVID-19 vaccination?

COVID-19 Vaccines in the Workplace

In general, very few businesses outside of medical facilities require vaccinations, mostly because of the fear of employee opposition. A unionized workplace is also unlikely to have a vaccine mandate unless it would not be in violation of a collective bargaining agreement.

Other employers may fear that missing a protected group in exceptions of a vaccine mandate could lead to disaster; however, under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, employers are not required to accommodate religious employees if doing so involves a substantial cost or risk in this case.

While these are unprecedented times, you still have civil rights and liberties. If you are questioning the constitutionality of a mandate in a place of public accommodation, we can help.

Civil Rights, COVID-19 Vaccination Mandates

While the likelihood of a federal mandate requiring Americans to receive the COVID-19 vaccine is not great, it is legally possible. If you have questions about your rights in places of public accommodation, Kalinoski Law Offices is here for you. Contact us today.

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