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Wis. Bill Would Ban Flu Shot Firings at Work

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on November 15, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A proposed bill in Wisconsin that would prohibit flu shot firings is coughing up a storm of controversy over whether employees should be required to get flu vaccinations.

It's standard practice for employers, particularly in the healthcare industry, to require staff to get vaccinated against the flu. But if the Wisconsin bill passes, such requirements may no longer be legal in the Badger State.

How the Proposed Bill Would Work

In general, employees cannot refuse workplace vaccination policies unless the refusal is due to a religious exemption or a specific health risk. Because most people are "at-will" employees, it's typically legal to fire employees for refusing a flu shot.

The Wisconsin bill would radically change that rule by prohibiting employers from demoting, suspending, firing, or otherwise discriminating against a worker -- including employees, contractors, interns and volunteers -- for refusing to get vaccinated against the flu. Period.

The bill would also prevent employers from doing any of the following:

  • Refusing to hire or renew the contract of an employee because of a flu vaccine;
  • Requiring any employee or contractor to receive a vaccination if the employee refused it in writing;
  • Requiring unvaccinated employees to wear masks in retaliation for refusing to get vaccinated.

According to the bill, health care workers would also not be required to wear masks in a manner that exceeds a "certain requirement" (though what exactly that phrase means is unclear).

Finally, if an employer requests that any of its employees be vaccinated, the employer would have to make all of the arrangements and shoulder any costs.

Pros and Cons

Twenty health organizations have already lined up against the bill. They claim workplace vaccination policies are essential to hospitals.

Health experts that such requirements in a hospital setting reduce absences from work among hospital employees, improve patient safety, reduce patient mortality, and cut costs for hospitals, reports The Badger Herald.

But proponents of the bill believe employees should have the right to make their own health care choices.

Regardless of how the bill pans out, proponents and advocates may want to think twice about shaking hands.

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