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Legal Expert: Little legal recourse employees can take to fight mandated workplace COVID vaccine

Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 9:37 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 26, 2021 at 9:50 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -Amid a fourth covid surge, private, public, healthcare agencies, and beyond are now requiring their employees to get the Covid 19 vaccine.

“The fact that the vaccine is approved for emergency use authorization; is that a reason why you can’t be mandated? The answer is no. There’s no law that differentiates there,” said Tulane law professor Joel Friedman.

Friedman says in short, there are only two legal barriers from employers requiring the vaccine. Only those protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and those with religious exemptions can opt-out.

“The government has the right to make reasonable requirements to protect the public safety and welfare,” said Friedman.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is now the first federal agency requiring its employees to get vaccinated. Secretary Denis McDonough says employees will have eight weeks to be fully vaccinated.

“Whenever a veteran or VA employee sets foot in a VA facility, they deserve to know that we have done everything in our power to protect them from Covid-19,” McDonough said in a statement.

New York City’s mayor is now one of the largest employers in the country requiring all city workers to get vaccinated.

Friedman says in the eyes of the law, these requirements are no different than other governmental requirements.

“If you have a child, try to get them into a school without having a polio and measles vaccine. No one says anything about that. If you drive a car without a seatbelt on or without a driver’s license or go on a plane without wearing a seatbelt. They’ll pull you off the plane without wearing a mask. What’s the difference? There is no difference,” said Friedman.

A city spokesperson says the City of New Orleans is not yet to the point of requiring its city workers to get vaccinated and says they do offer bonus day off incentives for vaccinated workers.

It’s not just employers, popular New Orleans DJ Soul Sister will require vaccine proof to attend some of her shows, tweeting “Because I want to be part of the solution in keeping people safe.”

Friedman says there will surely be a lawsuit or two in opposition, but he believes they’ll all get tossed out.

“For any judge who applies the law and doesn’t make a visceral political reaction to a lawsuit, every one of those lawsuits will fail just as they have failed so far. They have not been one successful lawsuit,” said Friedman.

LCMC issued a statement saying they are giving careful considering to mandating the vaccine:

Many health systems across the country are mandating that employees get vaccinated for their safety and the safety of their patients and communities. This move to mandatory vaccinations has the support from national healthcare associations such as the American Hospital Association and is becoming more common outside of healthcare in the business community and in higher education.

LCMC Health is giving careful consideration to doing so in the near future.

In New Orleans, the veterans’ hospital says approximately 85 percent of their employees are vaccinated.

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