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Wausau attorney: employees can be fired for refusing vaccine, with conditions

Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 9:06 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Dean Dietrich with Dietrich VanderWaal, S.C. has been representing employers for 43 years. He said employers have the right to require employees to get the vaccine and fire them if they don’t, with two conditions.

“One is if the employee has a legitimate religious objection to the vaccine,” Dietrich said. This would give the employer the duty or obligation to help accommodate the employee. “The other is, if the employee has medical reasons that prevent the receiving of the vaccine, there may be an obligation to accommodate that condition.”

He said that could look similar to what the medical field does when their employees can’t get the flu shot by wearing a mask. “I’m afraid we’re going to see similar types of debates,” Dietrich said. He said some employers are taking a closer look into this topic.

“Many of the employers that I work with are saying we’re not going to require our employees to get the vaccine in order to come into work.” Dietrich said it’s not considered in this region often because of the fact many employers are still struggling with worker shortages.

He used an analogy between vaccine mandates and drug tests for workers. “When things are as tight as they are, businesses are looking to not do a drug test or do a limited drug test, in order to get those good candidates to work.” He said businesses have to decide which is more important when it comes to requirements for work.

“It’s a very hard policy decision, the desire to keep employees but also the desire to protect the health of all employees,” Dietrich said.

But, he said new concerns could fuel the debates here. “As we get more concerned about the potential that the delta virus or the gamma virus, will be more infectious and cause more potential illnesses for even those who’ve been vaccinated.”

Dietrich said these conversations won’t be going say soon, since this topic is complicated with new studies and information being released every day.

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