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Should workers in California be fired for not getting the flu shot?

Last week, CBS Los Angeles reported that at least five people who were younger than 65 have died from the flu this season in California. Dozens of other deaths from the flu have been reported across the country.

Even though the flu vaccine can help prevent the spread of the flu, many are saying that this could still be one of the worst seasons for the flu in California compared to recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 20,000 people do die from the flu each year.

Taking all of this information into consideration, many health care facilities are mandating that all workers get vaccinated if they have not done so already in order to protect patients. However, some workers have been refusing to get the shot, and as a result, some medical facilities have been firing employees who have refused to get vaccinated. Although health care workers certainly have a responsibility to take precautions to keep vulnerable patients safe, some are questioning whether it is legal for hospitals to force workers to get vaccinated.

According to reports, several health care workers have been fired over the past few weeks for refusing to get their flu shots. Workers have been fired in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Missouri. And hundreds of nursing home and hospital workers in Rhode Island are challenging a recent requirement that forces all health care workers to get vaccinated in order to continue doing their jobs. For now, workers in Rhode Island can refuse the vaccine without losing their jobs, but they must wear a mask when working with patients in order to avoid spreading the flu.

Although some folks might not understand why health care workers would refuse the shot, some workers say that they are refusing the shot for religious reasons or because of their diets.

One woman who was fired over a year ago for refusing to get the flu shot is now pursuing a lawsuit against her employer. The former customer service representative claims that her employer, a hospital for children in Ohio, fired her because she wouldn't get the flu shot. The woman is a vegan so her diet restricts foods that are made from any animal products or animal byproducts. Since the flu shot contains egg products, the woman cannot get the vaccine without going against her diet. The woman's case is scheduled to be heard before a jury later this year.

Source: Religion News Service, "Citing religion, some workers refuse flu shots," Janice Lloyd, Jan. 17, 2013

  • Our Los Angeles / Long Beach employment law firm handles a wide variety of claims involving violations of employee rights. If you believe that your employer has violated your rights in the workplace, you may want to consider consulting an attorney in order to learn more about protecting your rights as a worker in California.

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