Union workers likely will be required to get COVID-19 vaccine

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Keep in mind, you need a religious or disability exception to legally avoid the vaccine.

CLEVELAND — By now, you’ve heard that jobs can require employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. 

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But what about union workers? 3News spoke with Joe Gross, a partner at Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff, LLP. about that topic.

“The union could say, ‘well you have to talk to the union first.’ The union could do that. A union might put up a fuss if enough of its members decide that it doesn’t want to get the vaccine,” says Gross.

However, that could get difficult if members of that same union want the vaccine. Labor and employment lawyer Joyce Goldstein says union employees can only be fired for just cause and may have an out.

“You just say well, there wasn’t just cause to fire me there was no legitimate reason because I’m not exposing anyone, I’m not exposing anyone and there’s no real risk and that employee might be successful under the union’s grievance procedure and collective bargaining agreement,” says Goldstein.

Keep in mind, you need a religious or disability exception to legally avoid the vaccine.

“So if one of those exceptions applies, then an employer would be required to make a reasonable accommodation if possible. So that could be working remote from home. But if you’re non-union and you don’t fall into one of those narrow exceptions, then you’re subject to whatever rules your employer imposes,” says Goldstein.

Both lawyers expect lawsuits will be filed in 2021 over COVID-19 vaccinations.

“I think after the first few lawsuits get decided, which might not be next year, right? We’ll start developing a body of law which is the way our country works,” says Gross.

Both lawyers tell 3News this is a sensitive time for both employers and employees and the ultimate goal is to have a safe work environment.


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