Can Employers Force Workers To Get The Coronavirus Vaccine? | Sunday TODAY

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[Music] as we’ve been reporting the first doses of the coronavirus vaccine are being shipped across the country this morning two days after the fda issued an emergency use authorization for the vaccine developed by pfizer and the german company biontech it is a stunning scientific achievement reached in less than a year but now another challenge convincing people to take it polls show many americans are skeptical of the vaccine raising the question of whether it may be mandated in some places including where you work nbc’s joe lane kent has our sunday focus with the first batch of vaccines rolling out today workers throughout the country are waking up to a new question will my employer require me to get these two shots for america’s 13 million manufacturing workers the answer may be yes we can’t operate fully unless we have that widespread immunity that can only come with a vaccine the vaccine is absolutely critical how does it affect the bottom line of a company manufacturers have to operate if we’re going to get this country healed if we’re going to be able to distribute ppe in the food supply and medical supplies if that means we have to require vaccines then we’ll require vaccines however not all americans are ready yet one new poll shows only 47 percent of americans plan to get vaccinated when it becomes available 26 percent do not while 27 percent are unsure some big companies like facebook don’t plan to mandate it ceo mark zuckerberg telling employees at this point we don’t think it’ll be necessary to require a vaccine to return to work delta airlines has not decided yet i think for international travel it will become a requirement whether it’s the airline does it or some international authorities do it we’re going to strongly encourage that airline employees all get vaccinated both ceos do say they’re confident in the vaccine and look forward to getting it themselves lindsey ryan is an attorney who helps employers comply with state and federal law is it legal to mandate workers get a vaccine the short answer to that question is that when the fda fully approves the vaccine it should be legal for employers to mandate the vaccine for their employees ryan says workers could opt out citing a disability medical concerns like an allergic reaction or a sincerely held religious belief under title vii of the civil rights act but fear or doubt alone will not be an excuse if we’re talking about employees who have a natural fear of the vaccination because of how new it is and because of how little information they have to date that’s probably not going to suffice to qualify for an exemption from the vaccination can a company fire someone or let someone go if they have a vaccine requirement and the employee says i’m good i don’t want to do it if they have a lawful mandatory vaccine policy somebody refuses the vaccine that employer would be able to terminate them now that being said i don’t think that many employers will have a strict policy but there could be other consequences such as you have to continue working remotely or you have to go on an unpaid leave a new chapter in calling the shots for the next step into the new normal and joe joins me now live joe good morning it’s great to see you this is such an interesting question you saw a mixed bag of responses from companies there what are experts advising these big companies to do here willie good morning to you you know legal experts we’ve been talking to said vaccine requirements they may not go over very well given the early stage of the vaccine so labor lawyers are recommending that companies strongly encourage it through education easy access say at the workplace eventually but a reminder you have to remember what dr fauci says until 75 to 80 of the workplace is vaccinated you still have to practice social distancing wearing our masks and all of the other safety precautions that we’ve been adhering to this entire time willie and we should remind people that is months down the road so that’s an important point you make there before we let you go joe we want to congratulate you scott and mira you are expecting baby number two congratulations thank you so much willie we are so thrilled we’re a little nervous about having two but we feel so lucky to have a little bit of good news uh in this rough year so thank you we’ve we’ve got to ourselves it’s the best thing you’ll ever do congratulations joe we’ll see you soon thanks great story you >>> AS WE HAVE BEEN REPORTING, THE FIRST DOSES OF THE CORONAVIRUS VACCINE ARE BEING SHIPPED THIS MORNING, TWO DAYS AFTER THE FDA ISSUED AN EMERGENCY USE AUTHORIZATION FOR THE VACCINE DEVELOPED BY PFIZER.
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IT’S A STUNNING SCIENTIFIC ACHIEVEMENT REACHED IN LESS THAN A YEAR. NOW, ANOTHER CHALLENGE. CONVINCING PEOPLE TO TAKE IT. POLLS SHOW MANY AMERICANS ARE SKEPTICAL OF THE VACCINE, RAISING THE QUESTION OF WHETHER IT MAY BE MANDATED IN SOME PLACES, INCLUDING WHERE YOU WORK. >> Reporter: WITH THE FIRST BATCH OF VACCINES ROLLING OUT TODAY, WORKERS THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY ARE WAKING UP TO A NEW QUESTION. WILL MY EMPLOYER REQUIRE ME TO GET THESE TWO SHOTS? FOR 13 MILLION MANUFACTURING WORKERS, THE ANSWER MAY BE YES. >> WE CAN’T OPERATE FULLY UNLESS WE HAVE THAT WIDESPREAD IMMUNITY THAT CAN ONLY COME WITH A VACCINE. THE VACCINE IS ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL. >> Reporter: HOW DOES IT AFFECT THE BOTTOM LINE OF A COMPANY? >> MANUFACTURERS HAVE TO OPERATE IF WE’RE GOING TO GET THIS COUNTRY HEALED, IF WE’RE GOING TO DISTRIBUTE PPE AND MEDICAL SUPPLIES. IF THAT MEANS WE HAVE TO REQUIRE VACCINES, THEN WE WILL REQUIRE VACCINES. >> Reporter: NOT ALL AMERICANS ARE READY YET. ONE NEW POLL SHOWS ONLY 47% OF AMERICANS PLAN TO GET VACCINATED WHEN IT BECOMES AVAILABLE. 26% DO NOT. 27% ARE UNSURE. SOME BIG COMPANIES LIKE FACEBOOK DON’T PLAN TO MANDATE IT. MARK ZUCKERBERG TELLING EMPLOYEES, AT THIS POINT, WE DON’T THINK IT WILL BE NECESSARY TO REQUIRE A VACCINE TO RETURN TO WORK. DELTA AIRLINES HAS NOT DECIDED YET. >> I THINK FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL, IT WILL BECOME A REQUIREMENT. WHETHER IT’S THE AIRLINE OR SOME INTERNATIONAL AUTHORITIES DO IT. WE WILL STRONGLY ENCOURAGE THAT AIRLINE EMPLOYEES ALL GET VACCINATED. >> Reporter: BOTH CEOs SAY THEY ARE CONFIDENT IN THE VACCINE AND LOOK FORWARD TO GETTING IT THEMSELVES. LINDSEY RYAN HELPS EMPLOYERS COMPLY WITH STATE AND FEDERAL LAW. IS IT LEGAL TO MANDATE WORKERS GET A VACCINE? >> THE SHORT ANSWER TO THAT QUESTION IS THAT WHEN FDA FULLY APPROVED THE VACCINE, IT SHOULD BE LEGAL FOR EMPLOYERS TO MANDATE THE VACCINE FOR THEIR EMPLOYEES. >> Reporter: SHE SAYS WORKERS COULD OPT OUT CITING A DISABILITY, MEDICAL CONCERNS LIKE AN ALLERGIC REACTION OR A SINCERELY HELD RELIGIOUS BELIEF UNTIL TITLE 7 OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT. FEAR OR DOUBT ALONE WILL NOT BE AN EXCUSE. >> EMPLOYEES WHO HAVE A FEAR BECAUSE OF HOW NEW IT IS AND BECAUSE OF HOW LITTLE INFORMATION THEY HAVE, THAT’S PROBABLY NOT GOING TO SUFFICE TO QUALIFY FOR AN EXEMPTION FROM THE VACCINATION. >> Reporter: CAN A COMPANY FIRE SOMEONE OR LET SOMEONE GO IF THEY HAVE A VACCINE REQUIREMENT AND THE EMPLOYEE SAYS, I’M GOOD, I DON’T WANT TO DO IT? >> IF THEY HAVE A LAWFUL, MANDATORY VACCINE POLICY, SOMEBODY REFUSES THE VACCINE, THAT EMPLOYER WOULD BE ABLE TO TERMINATE THEM. THAT BEING SAID, I DON’T THINK THAT MANY EMPLOYERS WILL HAVE A STRICT POLICY. BUT THERE COULD BE OTHER CONSEQUENCES SUCH AS YOU HAVE TO CONTINUE WORKING REMOTELY OR YOU HAVE TO GO ON AN UNPAID LEAVE.
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>> Reporter: A NEW CHAPTER IN CALLING THE SHOTS FOR THE NEXT STEP INTO THE NEW NORMAL.
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>> GOOD MORNING. IT’S GREAT TO SEE YOU. THIS IS AN INTERESTING QUESTION. A MIXED BAG OF RESPONSES FROM COMPANIES THERE. WHAT ARE EXPERTS ADVISING THE BIG COMPANIES TO DO? >> GOOD MORNING. LEGAL EXPERTS WE HAVE BEEN TALKING TO SAID VACCINE REQUIREMENTS, THEY MAY NOT GO OVER VERY WELL GIVEN THE EARLY STAGE OF THE VACCINE. LABOR LAWYERS ARE RECOMMENDING THAT COMPANIES STRONGLY ENCOURAGE IT THROUGH EDUCATION, EASY ACCESS AT THE WORKPLACE EVENTUALLY. A REMINDER, YOU HAVE TO REMEMBER WHAT DR. FAUCI SAYS. UNTIL 75% TO 80% OF THE WORKPLACE IS VACCINATED, YOU STILL HAVE TO PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING, WEARING OUR MASKS AND ALL OF THE OTHER SAFETY PRECAUTIONS THAT WE HAVE BEEN ADHERING TO THIS ENTIRE TIME.
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>> WE SHOULD REMIND PEOPLE, THAT’S MONTHS DOWN THE ROAD. THAT’S AN IMPORTANT POINT YOU MAKE THERE. BEFORE WE LET YOU GO, WE WANT TO CONGRATULATE YOU, SCOTT AND MARY. YOU ARE EXPECTING BABY TWO. CONGRATULATIONS. >> THANK YOU SO MUCH. WE ARE SO THRILLED. WE ARE A LITTLE NERVOUS ABOUT HAVING TWO, BUT WE FEEL LUCKY TO HAVE A LITTLE BIT OF GOOD NEWS IN THIS ROUGH YEAR. THANK YOU. >> WE HAVE TWO OURSELVES. IT’S THE BEST THING
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