NJ attorneys say your boss could require COVID vaccination
New Jersey has no plans to mandate that you receive COVID-19 vaccination — but your employer still could.
With only emergency authorization for distribution approved so far, guidance is limited as to how employers can handle the eventual widespread release of COVID-19 vaccines. But legal experts believe guidance, perhaps in the way of law, is coming, and say that in the meantime, your boss can craft policies requiring that you medically protect yourself from the novel coronavirus.
"Oftentimes, employers do have the right to mandate vaccinations, generally — they just don't," said Phillip Bauknight, an attorney with labor law firm Fisher Phillips in Murray Hill. "I think employers are going to have to really think about whether they want to require it versus encourage it or strongly recommend it."
A handful of New Jersey hospitals began administering Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to frontline healthcare workers on Tuesday. It's expected that by the end of the week, dozens of medical centers will be doing the same.
For the first time, New Jersey is requiring that healthcare workers, both patient-facing and back-of-the-house, receive a flu shot unless they need to go without it for medical reasons. The law was crafted in order to lighten the load on the healthcare system in the face of a global pandemic.
"I think there will be legislation on the state and federal level as this [COVID-19] vaccine is getting rolled out, because of how communicable the virus is," said Adam Kleinfeldt, a workers' rights attorney with Deutsch Atkins in Hackensack. "My gut tells me there's going to be legislation and private employers will be permitted to mandate vaccination."
But any mandate is likely to allow for exceptions, Kleinfeldt added — medical or religious reasons, for example. An employer may also need to prove that it's in their operation's best interest to mandate protection.