Questions and Answers About Measles at Work

A boss who's worried about an outbreak of measles in the workplace needs to tread lightly. Reports of a growing number of measles cases have employers wondering what they should be doing. But federal and state laws can limit their ability to require workers to be vaccinated. And it may be risky to even ask staffers whether they've gotten a measles or other type of vaccination.

News about a measles case in the New York City area has clients calling human resources provider Alcott HR Group seeking advice, says Bob Byrnes, director of risk management with the New York-based company.

"They're asking, what can they do? Can they go up and ask people if they're vaccinated, or if their children are," Byrnes says.

Some questions and answers about measles and the workplace:

Q Can an employer require workers to be vaccinated against measles, or any other disease?

A Legally, an employer can tell workers they must be vaccinated, but doing so puts them at risk for lawsuits under federal and state laws designed to shield workers from discrimination and protect their privacy.

Workers might bring lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, which prohibits discrimination on medical grounds in the workplace. If they have religious beliefs that forbid their being vaccinated, they can also sue employers for discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

"Employers should weigh the risks of mandating vaccinations or even asking about them before proceeding," says Audrey Mross, an employment law attorney with Munck Wilson Mandala in Dallas.

Q What about people who work in health care or who handle food? Can they be forced to be vaccinated?

A Employers in these industries may have more legal leeway in telling workers they need to be vaccinated. But even those workers cannot be forced to have vaccinations. There have been lawsuits against hospitals...

Comments are closed.