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12 Responds: Can my employer make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory?

12 Responds

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Can your employer force you to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

It’s a question that’s on the minds of many people, including several viewers who have recently written into 12 Responds.

Employment Attorney Matt Reeber tells 12 News that in December, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidance for employers regarding the vaccine.

“It said that employers can mandate that their employees get the COVID vaccine,” he explained.

While the majority of the population is eager to get vaccinated, there’s still plenty of people who aren’t interested in getting immunized.

One viewer wrote into 12 Responds asking: “If an employer decides they want to mandate the COVID vaccine and an employee refuses the vaccine, would the employee be eligible for unemployment benefits?”

Margaux Fontaine, a spokesperson for the R.I. Department of Labor and Training (DLT), said it’s possible, but every unemployment claim is fact-dependent.

“Each presents its own unique circumstances,” she explained. “The DLT would have to review the circumstances and make a determination based on the information presented on whether the separation presented a ‘good cause.'”

When asked if there are any known protections for employees who don’t want the vaccine, Reeber said there are only two exceptions. He said employees do not have to get the vaccine if they’re disabled or have a “sincerely religious reason.”

“If someone comes forward and says, ‘I have a disability’ or ‘I have a sincerely held religious belief,’ then you have to go into this process talking about accommodation,” Reeber said. “We all know what accommodation is right now. It’s wearing masks, social distancing and just being COVID safe.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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