COVID-19 vaccine: From your workplace to travel companies, who can require you to get vaccinated?

Friday, December 18, 2020
Who can require you to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
From your workplace to the airline you travel on: who can require you to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Can an employer require workers to get a vaccine? Can a travel provider? Here at 7 On Your Side, we are getting questions about this, so let's start with the workplace.

An employer can demand a lot, as long as they don't discriminate and it is something we have become used to experiencing.

"If an employer wants to require certain safety measures, I'm all for that as long as they're based in science," says Larry Masterman of Weaverville, "there are lots of jobs where you have to wear steel toed boots or a hard hat."

The law surrounding this is complicated and messy. San Francisco employment attorney, Susan Bluer, says those in certain protected classes could be exempted from getting the shots, but most of us are not in a protected class.

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I asked for her take on where an employee stands.

"You're an employee, do I have to do it? Do I have to do it or risk losing my job?" she says, "I would say it's all about risk. If you want to assume the risk of getting fired because you don't fall into those protected classes, I would say don't assume that risk. Get the vaccination," says Bluer.

Now let's move on to travel.

We start with travel attorney, Adam Anolik.

"I think it's totally reasonable to require a vaccination," he says.

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Adam Anolik's take on things means a lot as a respected travel attorney. He says airlines, hotels and other travel providers have the right to choose who they do business with, as long as they don't discriminate.

"So you can have your business and say, 'Only people in suits can come into my restaurant,' or 'Only people with shoes can come into my cafe,'" he says. "You can discriminate against certain people as long as it has a valid purpose."

A purpose, perhaps, like protecting clients and employees from a potentially lethal illness.

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Your rights as a traveler are extremely restricted when it comes to getting the vaccine.

Just as Walmart can keep those without face masks from entering their stores, it would appear most airlines and cruise ships could refuse to serve you for declining a vaccine.

One thing to keep in mind: most of this has not been tested in the courts, so things could change.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

Have a question for Michael and the 7 On Your Side team? Fill out the form HERE!

7OYS's consumer hotline is a free consumer mediation service for those in the San Francisco Bay Area. We assist individuals with consumer-related issues; we cannot assist on cases between businesses, or cases involving family law, criminal matters, landlord/tenant disputes, labor issues, or medical issues. Please review our FAQ here. As a part of our process in assisting you, it is necessary that we contact the company / agency you are writing about. If you do not wish us to contact them, please let us know right away, as it will affect our ability to work on your case.

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