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Employment Blog

Flu Shots - Required or Prohibited

Many states have adopted laws that require mandatory influenza (flu) vaccinations for certain health care professions. A recent hearing on Wisconsin Assembly Bill 247 would take the opposite direction. This proposed legislation would prohibit employers (including health care employers) from taking adverse employment action against an employee who refuses to receive a seasonal flu vaccination. The bill would also prohibit Wisconsin employers from refusing to hire or refusing to renew the contract of someone because of their status of receiving or not receiving a seasonal flu vaccination. In addition, an employer would not be allowed to require an employee or contractor to receive a flu shot if the individual refuses to accept it. An employer also could not require unvaccinated employees or contractors to wear masks as an alternative to not taking a flu shot. In other words, this legislation would prohibit an employer from taking any action that would adversely affect the employment of an individual employee or a contractor that refuses to take a seasonal flu vaccination.

Employers, under this proposed legislation, would be required to inform employees in writing that they may refuse a flu vaccination without suffering discrimination or retaliation from the employer. Employers would also be required to offer employees or contractors written information discussing the risks and benefits of receiving the flu vaccination prior to its being administered by the company. If employers are requesting that their employees or contracted persons receive a flu shot, the employer will be required to arrange for the vaccination at no cost to the person receiving it.

This proposed legislation has received a number of criticisms especially from state agencies that believe that a vaccination should be given to those employees in jobs that routinely expose themselves to the flu virus. Many employers have implemented a mandatory vaccination program for those types of positions. The proposed legislation would prevent mandatory vaccination requirements and prevent any discrimination or retaliation against an employee that chooses to not have a seasonal flu vaccination. The proposers of the legislation side with the argument of personal freedom to choose an individuals health care rather than a requirement that the employer can impose upon certain employees that they must receive the vaccination.

The Wisconsin Senate will not be in session until after the first of the year, so it is unlikely that this legislation will move anywhere quickly but it is an indication of the controversy that exists when talking about mandatory health care requirements.