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VERIFY: Your rights if an employer requires the COVID-19 vaccine

A health law expert breaks down your options

ST. LOUIS — What are your rights if your boss says you have to get the vaccine?

The 5 On Your Side VERIFY team took this question to an expert.

Ana Rutschman is a Saint Louis University professor at the Center for Health Law Studies.

Rutschman said both private and public employers can mandate employees get a vaccine. 

“Indeed, they do that pretty often. They do it on a regular basis. Perhaps the best analogy here is with the flu vaccination, which is mandated by different kinds of employers,” she said.

Rutschman said there are legal exemptions for these mandates. If an employee has a medical reason they can be exempt from a vaccine requirement. Also, in Missouri and Illinois, a religious reason qualifies as an exemption.

“If you fall into one of those exemptions, though, then the employer has to do a number of things to accommodate your needs according to that exemption. Such as, in the case of COVID for instance, they might transfer [the employee] to a department where there are fewer personal interactions, mandate the use of masks, etc. But, it has to be a reasonable accommodation,” Rutschman said.

Rutschman said employees without an exemption can be fired if they do not follow the employer’s vaccine mandate. She explained that's because in the United States, we have "at-will" employment, which means an employer can fire you at any time for any reason, except an illegal one.

Do you have a question or concern you want us to look into? Contact 5 On Your Side's VERIFY team by emailing verify@ksdk.com

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