Health Care Employers feel the Pain of H1N1 Vaccination Policies

H1N1 Vaccination PoliciesMany Hospitals and other employers in the health care industry are discussing the benefit of H1N1 vaccinations for their employees. Some are even considering mandating that employees receive the vaccination. After all, if your employees are “at will,” then you can impose new conditions of employment on them at any time.

On many levels, mandating the vaccine for health care workers makes sense. After all, OSHA mandates that employers provide their employees with a safe place to work. Doesn’t a mandatory vaccination ensure a safer place for employees to work? A healthy workforce also means less absenteeism. And, the idea of mandatory vaccinations isn’t totally foreign to health care: think TB vaccinations. I also compare a mandated vaccination to drug testing: somewhat invasive, but for the common good.

On the other hand, mandatory vaccinations raise many legal issues. For instance, if your workforce is unionized, then this would require negotiations with the union before implementation, as it affects the terms and conditions of employment. If you are non-unionized and have many employees opposed to the mandatory vaccination, a mandate may be what pushes employees to organize. Another consideration is that some have asserted that the vaccination is untested and potentially dangerous. If an employee is vaccinated over his/her objection, that may create liability for the employer if the employee experiences an injury or serious side effects from the vaccine.

While there are many good reasons to mandate the H1N1 vaccine, an employer who moves in this direction is definitely treading onto unsettled legal grounds.