It’s Still Flu Season and Mandatory Flu Vaccines Can Still Cost You

Remember that case we told you about last year with the flu vaccines and the EEOC suing for employees on religious discrimination grounds? To recap– in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Mission Hospital a federal district court in North Carolina denied the hospital’s motion for summary judgment, letting the case move forward. That meant that three employees and the EEOC were going to trial in a case about whether their hospital-employer discriminated against them on religious grounds. Well, that case has settled to the tune of $89,000. Not a record setter but real money and a good reminder to look at your flu vaccine program to make sure it is well within the legal limits.

Quick Reminders for Mandatory Flu Shot Programs

  • When an employee’s religious belief conflicts with an employer’s mandatory flu shots, the employer must provide a way for employees to request an accommodation (which, by the way, Mission Hospital did).
  • Once an employee requests the accommodation, the employer can (1) dispute that it is a sincerely held religious belief (riskiest path), (2) provide a reasonable accommodation (path of least resistance but maybe not necessary), or (3) demonstrate that it could not reasonably accommodate the employee’s religious needs without undue hardship (somewhere in between).
  • Step back, and be sure to treat employees the same whether they want or don’t want the vaccine. If a number of employees got to opt out for non-religious reasons, make sure you can distinguish them from your religious objectors. Oh—and make sure to clearly document all of this.