COVID-19 has overshadowed most of our lives the past year and a half. Worrying about catching the disease was stressful enough. But now, many workers face the prospect of employer-mandated COVID-19 vaccinations. Under Oklahoma law, is it possible for employers to force employees to be vaccinated? This article explores this tense and time-sensitive issue.
The Federal Mandate for Employers
On September 9, the president issued an executive order regarding mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations. The order requires private sector employers with more than 100 employees to require their workers to be vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing.
Another order affects most federal employees and federal contracts. This order also contains a vaccine requirement but omits the testing option. Also, the mandate includes people working for facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursements.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will be rolling out a temporary emergency standard that stands to affect more than 80 million American workers. The standard should help answer some of the public’s questions about the mandates.
The Response Has Been Mixed
Employees who refuse COVID-19 vaccinations face termination. Employers that fail to meet federal requirements could be fined $14,000 for each day of noncompliance.
Still, some employees are refusing to comply.
However, some employers welcome federal support for the mandates. Some hope that federal support for their COVID-19 vaccine requirements could eliminate any liability on their part.
Opponents to the executive orders state that the requirement is burdensome for business owners already struggling to recover from the pandemic. Opposing viewpoints and pushback from employers and employees have created an unstable work environment for many.
What This Means for Oklahoma Workers
Yes, Oklahoma employers can require COVID-19 vaccinations. An employee’s only way to avoid being vaccinated at this time are to claim a medical or religious exemption. Otherwise, employers can terminate an employee who fails to comply with the company’s mandatory vaccination policy.
However, many of the state’s largest employers have not done so yet. As of the date this article was written, the list of companies not requiring vaccines includes:
Chesapeake Energy Corp., Devon Energy, Continental Resources, Homeland Stores, Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, ONE GAS, Paycom, Public Service Co. of Oklahoma.
This does not mean they will not require vaccines in the future. It could be that they are researching their legal standing or re-assessing the situation based on the level of employee resistance.
Certain Industries Could Require Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccinations
Some types of workers are considered more vulnerable to the coronavirus. For example, law enforcement and first responders have close and frequent contact with large population segments. Such necessary workers face a greater chance of exposure.
However, medical workers could be even more at risk. Many medical facilities are requiring COVID-19 vaccinations and are terminating employees that refuse to comply.
COVID-19 Vaccinations May Continue to Be a Hot Issue
Workers need to be protected. However, respecting their rights is also crucial. If you have concerns about your employment because of a vaccine requirement, please contact us to discuss your options.
The attorneys at Armstrong & Vaught, P.L.C., are committed to helping workers in Oklahoma protect their workplace rights. Let us hold your employer accountable for violating your rights. Call us now at 918-582-2500, toll-free at (800) 722-8880, or contact us online for a free consultation with a skilled attorney.