Local law experts say federal vaccine mandate may be a relief for some employers

Coronavirus

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — The Biden Administration announced a new mandate Thursday that requires employers to have their workers to be either vaccinated against COVID-19, or get tested weekly by January of 2022.

Big companies must get vaccines or tests by Jan. 4

Local law experts say not only are vaccine mandates not anything new, but a federal mandate may come as a relief to many employers.

Professor of Law Jeff Hirsch at the University of North Carolina explained that legally, employers have ground to implement vaccine mandates, but this makes it easier. Any challenges to an employer’s mandate would need to go to OSHA rather than the individual company.

He says vaccine mandates have been around for years, especially for students and healthcare workers, but the difference here is the political divide.

“But you know, as anyone with a kid knows, public schools, almost everywhere require certain vaccines. And some employers have done that for quite a long time. It’s just frankly, the difference now it’s political and more widespread,” said Hirsh

He said even previous suits against employers for implementing vaccine mandates have little ground to stand on, adding, “Now, I will say for a company that does a full-on vaccine mandate without the sort of testing option, right? An employee could challenge that, although, really, there are very few challenges available, even in that instance, as well.

“Just, you know, one sort of facet of American employment law is that employers have a very wide discretion to impose all kinds of rules on its employees, which they’ve done for decades. And this is just one example of that.”

Hirsch noted that vaccine mandates have proven to work, and as deadlines near, upwards of 90% of employees ultimately get vaccinated.

“But it does appear that they work, even for employees who don’t like it, because ultimately, you know, talk is cheap, but your job is not,” he said.

There are still exceptions for medical and religious reasons, but Hirsch said courts may start getting stricter on those requirements.

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