HARRISONBURG, Virginia (WHSV) – US healthcare workers are pushing back after hospitals in several states required vaccination of employees in order to work.
A federal judge on Saturday dismissed a lawsuit in Texas, saying employees were free to choose whether to accept or reject a vaccine, but if rejected they would have to find work elsewhere.
No hospitals in the valley require staff to be vaccinated, but a legal expert says they could if they wanted to.
“A hospital, like any employer, is allowed to make whatever rules it wants. You just can’t break the law, ”said Charles Henter, associate professor of law at George Mason University School of Law and attorney with Henter Law PLC.
There are two important federal anti-discrimination laws that would allow an employee to be exempt from the regulations.
“If someone has a religious objection based on a sincere religious belief to vaccination, they must make an exception for those employees under Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” said Henter.
Henter says this law only protects religious beliefs. It can’t be political, secular, or philosophical. And he says that when the challenge becomes a trial, the court will inquire how righteous the belief is.
“People often think that it can be easy to feign genuine religious belief. I would just say it isn’t, ”said Henter.
Employers must also make exemptions for anyone who has a disability or health condition that prevents them from getting a vaccination under the Americans with Disability Act and the Rehabilitation Act.
If someone falls under one of these categories, the employer must make reasonable arrangements for that person to allow him or her to work without vaccination.
“This property is a broad term. It doesn’t have to mean that you are physically going to the exact same place of work and everything else. This shelter might be fine, you don’t need to be vaccinated, but you have to be masked and maybe if possible you can work remotely, ”said Henter.
While hospitals can require most employees to be vaccinated, Valley hospitals do not have a mandate to vaccinate.
Health declaration from Augusta:
“Augusta Health currently does not require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. To promote the safety of our patients and team members, as well as the families on our team, we encourage our employees to volunteer to vaccinate unless their GP advises them of a contraindication.
Our vaccination rate is over 70% and we continue to vaccinate our employees every week. We will be reviewing our COVID-19 vaccination policy as full FDA approvals are under consideration. We learned a lot about the COVID-19 virus and vaccinations. We learned that the vaccines not only help protect you from disease, they also help to contain the spread of the virus. It turns out to be the best resource for protecting ourselves, our loved ones, and those we serve. Augusta Health is committed to occupational safety and personal well-being. “
Sentara RMH declaration:
“In accordance with the recommendations of the CDC and ACIP, Sentara Healthcare is offering the vaccine to all team members and healthcare workers in our community. Vaccination is currently voluntary / optional for all Sentara employees. However, getting a COVID-19 vaccine is an important tool in stopping this global pandemic. Team members are encouraged to review training materials and speak to our clinical leaders if they have any questions or concerns to determine if the vaccine is right for them. If things change, Sentara will continue to evaluate its decision and closely monitor guidelines and directions from the governing bodies. “
Valley health declaration:
“We encourage 100% of our employees to get vaccinated and we monitor state and national discussions closely as we weigh our options and make important patient safety decisions.”
Henter says if you have a sincere religious belief, or if you have a health condition or a disability, it is important to let your employer know and stand up for your rights.
“The law works here when everyone works together in good faith and acts sensibly, and I think that’s how everyone should approach this issue,” said Henter.
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