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Refuse a Flu Shot, Get Fired?

By Andrew Lu on January 11, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Can you get fired for refusing a flu shot? Many employees may be wondering this exact question.

There's a massive flu outbreak hitting many parts of the country hard, The Washington Post reports. You might be coughing and sneezing in your cubicle, or the guy next to you may be coughing and sneezing onto you.

Sick of sick employees infecting their entire workforce, many employers are now taking proactive measures and requiring that employees receive a flu shot. But can an employer legally force you to get a vaccination or risk losing your job?

Unfortunately for those afraid of needles, the answer is generally "yes." Employers can require that you get a flu shot in many cases.

Most employees in the workforce are considered "at-will" employees. That means that employers can fire you for any, or no, reason at all. So just as you could get fired for coming in late, using foul language, or bad work, you could also get fired for refusing a flu shot.

And these terminations have already happened, as the Indianapolis Business Journal recently reported. Most flu shot-related firings affect healthcare workers, who are generally required to get flu shots and other vaccinations as a condition of employment.

But what about those who argue that they have privacy rights over their own body? Well, you do. You can refuse a flu shot. And you have the right to protect your body from shots and unwanted vaccinations. However, this doesn't give you the right to work for an employer that wants a vaccinated workforce.

In other words, no one will physically force you to get a shot. You just may be jobless if you refuse one.

As for workers who are not at-will, you may have a right to refuse a flu shot and keep your job. This is especially true for union workers and those under employment agreements that spell out specific enumerated reasons for termination. If refusing a vaccination or flu shot is not one of those reasons, the employer typically may not unilaterally terminate you for such refusal.

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