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Can Refusing A Flu Shot Get Me Fired?

Maybe. Employers may encourage employees to get a flu shot for a variety of reasons: to control health care costs by warding off illness, to manage productivity levels by helping to keep the majority of the workforce healthy and able to work or simply as a ‘fringe benefit’ of employment. Some may go so far as to require a flu shot as a condition of employment and will terminate or threaten to terminate any employee who does not comply.

Most commonly, flu shots are required by employees who work in health care. Some state health departments require all health care workers to receive an annual flu shot.

If you refuse, can you be fired? If fired, will you have an option to file a wrongful termination lawsuit or other employment lawsuit? These are all interesting questions.

If you refuse a flu shot that your employer considers a condition of your employment, consider first whether you are doing so because of a sincerely held religious belief or as an accommodation for a disability. Both discrimination based on disability and based on religion are not allowed in the workplace and may require that your employer accommodate your refusal.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has said that employers can question whether an exemption from a flu shot requirement is being validly requested by asking the employee details about his or her religious beliefs and practices. That does not mean that an employer can force you to bring in a note from your pastor or other religious leader verifying your beliefs, however.

The short answer is that some employers can require you to take an annual flu shot and terminate your employment if you refuse. But that is not an absolute right of your employer; there are always exceptions to the rule. If you think you were fired unfairly because you declined a flu shot, an employment lawyer can help you understand your rights.

Source: Visalia Times-Delta, “Can an employer have a mandatory flu shot policy?” February 5, 2012

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