Now that flu season is upon us many employers question whether they can require their employees to have a flu shot. As a simple answer, yes, generally employers can require their employees to have a flu shot unless the employee has a religious objection or cannot receive the vaccine due to a disability. There are a number of factors an employer may want to take into consideration before requiring the flu shot for all employees.
For employees with a lot of public interaction, especially the medical industry where employees may often be around patients who are ill or who have compromised immune systems, it may be a good idea to require your employees to have the flu shot. In other industries, you may want to require the shot to control absenteeism – if less employees are getting sick, they’ll miss less work time.
Employees who morally object to having a flu shot would not be exempt from the requirement. Those individuals would either be forced to have the vaccine against their moral judgment or be subject to disciplinary action or termination based on what you decide the consequence will be for not having the shot. This could have a negative effect on employee morale.
If you do decide to require the flu shot, you’ll need to determine whether you will have the flu shots administered on site or what type of proof you will require from employees who have the flu shot off site (such as at their doctor’s office or at a pharmacy, etc). You will also need to decide what the consequence will be if an employee refuses to have the flu shot. Will you discipline the employee or terminate for failure to satisfy a condition of employment?
You will also need to establish a process for employees with objections to the mandatory flu shot for religious reasons or due to a disability. You will need to go through an interactive process with any employees with objections for religious reasons or due to a disability to determine whether there is a reasonable accommodation that can be made (which may include allowing the employee to not have the flu shot). This interactive process will need to be done with each employee with a religious or disability based objection to make a case by case determination.
If you do require flu shots for employees, the requirement and the consequence for not fulfilling the requirement must be administered consistently to avoid claims of discrimination.