With COVID-19 vaccines now widely available, many employers are considering requiring that their employees receive a vaccine before coming back to the office. According to reporting by CNBC, some employers are viewing mandatory vaccinations as a competitive advantage, potentially using it as a marketing tool to lure still-hesitant customers back.
This environment has led some employees to question whether their employer can fire them if they refuse to get a vaccine. The answer, generally, is “yes,” with a few exceptions.
Illinois is an at-will employment state. That means that your employer can fire you for any reason, at any time, provided that the reason for your termination is not impermissible under state or federal law. For example, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against employees because of their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. If you were fired for one of these reasons, you would likely be able to file a claim and obtain compensation from your former employer.
Since refusing to get a vaccine does not itself fall within the protection of Title VII or other employment laws, your employer could fire you if you refused to comply with a lawful employment policy. That said, there are some cases under which you could refuse to get a vaccine and keep your job. For example:
In either case, your employer would have to provide you with reasonable accommodations, providing that doing so does not pose an undue hardship to your employer. Reasonable accommodations could include things like letting you work remotely, modified shifts, obtaining periodic tests, or reassignment.
If you are considering refusing a COVID-19 vaccine and your employer requires them, it’s a good idea to discuss your situation with an attorney. A lawyer familiar with state and federal employment law can help you determine whether you have a valid religious or medical exemption that you can claim. In addition, if you do, your attorney can communicate that fact to your employer in a way that increases the likelihood of you keeping your job and maintaining a good relationship with your employer. In the event that your employer denies your request, an attorney can help you explore your legal options.
If you believe that your employer has treated you unfairly and has violated state or federal employment law, you should speak to an attorney as soon as you can. The Disparti Law Group has recovered over 1 Billion dollars for our clients. We are dedicated to helping employees assert their rights and holding employers accountable. Contact us today and find out why thousands of our clients say, “Larry Wins!” 312-600.6000.