Employers should have the right to make their workplaces safe

Forty state legislatures have attempted to pass laws forbidding employers from mandating their employees get vaccinated against COVID-19. Only two have succeeded.



June 11, 2021 - 1:31 PM

Gov. Laura Kelly gets a COVID-19 vaccine earlier this year. Photo by (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Under federal law, companies and government entities can require employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Whether they will, is another matter.

Susan Lynn, Register editor

Because the virus is easily transmissible, it only makes sense for employers to do all they can to make their workplaces safe.

In Kansas, more than 5,100 have died from the virus, including 20 in Allen County. Nationwide, more than 598,000 have succumbed to the virus. 

Even so, employers large and small are hesitant to mandate the vaccines, which, no matter their make — Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson — have been proven very effective at saving lives.

The problem?

The hassle of being sued.

As is, the vaccines are designated for “emergency use,” as opposed to standard use to treat a disease such as polio.

Until the vaccines are “officially” approved by the Food and Drug Administration, employers worry a mandate could put them in legal jeopardy. 

Instead, they’ve opted for intensive education campaigns and financial incentives to encourage employees to get vaccinated.

THE FEDERAL law is based on a 1905 Supreme Court ruling that allowed states to require people be vaccinated against smallpox, which in turn paved the way for schools to require proof of vaccination for students. 

The premise then, as now, is that “a community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members.”

Like COVID-19, smallpox was a highly contagious and deadly virus that before a vaccine became available killed thousands of people each year. Smallpox is now nonexistent, thanks to an global immunization campaign launched in 1967. The last known case was discovered in 1977 in Somalia, according to the World Health Organization.

Despite the federal guidelines issued under the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a majority of states have considered legislation that block employers and others from requiring employees to be vaccinated. 

In Ohio, legislators are considering a measure that prevents schools, businesses and communities from putting safety measures in place related to COVID. What’s really dangerous about the bill is that it applies to all vaccines — polio, measles, meningitis, etc.