Can an employer terminate and employee for not getting a flu shot?

Get Legal Help Today

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Can an employer terminate and employee for not getting a flu shot?

I was terminated for not getting a flu shot at the hospital I worked. I had no patient contact. My employer kept 85 hours of paid time off that I earned. I refused the shot for religious reasons.

Asked on December 3, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Yes, you can potentialy be terminated for not getting a flu shot: an employer is entitled to require this to protect not just patients (though note: even if you have no direct patient contact, you are in a hospital setting, so any flu viruses you introduce into the environment/air could very realistically reach patients) but also other staff members. 
However, the employer should have offered you the "reasonable accommodation," because you claimed a religious reason (though see below for some issues with that). A common reasonable accommodation in this context is to give you the choice of getting the flu shot or, if your faith forbids, alternately, wearing a surgical-style mask the entire time you are at work. If the employer did not give you the option of this or a similar accommodation, you may have suffered illegal religious-based employment discrimination, and you may have a claim to pursue with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC). If they did give a reasonable option and you refused both the shot and the accommodation, then your termination would be lawful and you would not have a claim.
Note however that if you do this, you employer may defend itself in the basis that your claimed religious reason is a pretext or an excuse, not genuine. If you just "pray by yourself," it may be very hard to prove that you truly do adhere to a faith which would bar the shot and that it's not the case that you simply don't want the shot for other reasons and are using religion as a justification. So while if you were not offered an accommodation and were simply terminated, you can certainly bring a complaint to the EEOC, be aware that there are challenges or issues with your case.
As for the hours: if an hourly employee, you must be paid for all hours worked and if not could file a wage and hour complaint. This would be filed with  different agency: the departmet of labor, which enforces the wage and hour laws.


IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption