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Are Workplace Flu Shot Policies Legal?

By Andrew Lu on January 14, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

You might be considering a mandatory flu shot policy for your workplace. However, you may be uncertain in knowing whether these policies are legal.

We're in the midst of a massive flu outbreak. So you may be noticing that your customers and employees are walking around with a cough, runny nose, or fever.

And as a small business owner, you may be acutely aware of how damaging one sick employee can be for your business, let alone multiple sick workers. So is a flu shot policy the way to go?

If you are worried about the legality of requiring flu shots, you should know that it is generally legal to adopt such a policy. In fact, some employers, mainly in the healthcare industry, have even fired employees who have refused to get the flu vaccine.

In some cases, getting a flu shot may be a precondition for employment. In others, getting fired for violating a flu shot policy may be OK because most employees are hired on an at-will basis, meaning they can be fired for any, or no, reason at all.

Still, while these are the general rules for the general workforce, you may want to talk to an employment attorney in your locale, to learn the specific rules about adopting such a policy.

In addition, while a flu shot policy may be legal, you may want to weigh several other considerations. First, not all of your workers may be crazy about getting vaccinated. Second, you should consider what actual enforcement of your policy will do to morale.

Will you actually fire someone for refusing the shot? That can be a very difficult personnel move to make for a small business. But if you have no plans to enforce a flu shot policy, what's the point of having a policy at all?

The flu season can wreak havoc on many workforces. Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut solution on how to manage the problem.

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