CLIENT ALERT: Is This New Jersey’s Test Case? RWJ Barnabas Fires Six Supervisor-Level Employees For Failing To Take COVID Vaccine

Over the past several months, many clients have reached out to us with questions like, can an employer require their employees to take a COVID vaccine as a condition of employment? According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as one federal judge in Texas, the answer seems to point toward yes, with certain key exceptions for employees with closely-held religious beliefs or medical conditions. However, the law is still very much unsettled and our advice to clients remains cautious and specific to their individual circumstances.

Earlier this year, RWJ Barnabas set a requirement that all supervisor-level employees and above must be vaccinated no later than June 30, 2021 save for religious or health-related exemptions. As that deadline came and passed, six employees (out of 2,985) had not complied, and their employment was recently terminated.

At this time, it is unclear whether any of the six terminated employees are considering legal action against RWJ Barnabas. Should that occur, it would become the first test case in New Jersey courts challenging a health system’s ability to terminate employees for refusing to take a COVID vaccine.

What if my practice is considering a similar requirement?

Again, the law in this area is still unsettled and any medical practice or business should proceed cautiously and consult with counsel before implementing a similar vaccination requirement. To determine whether a similar policy is right for a particular practice, skilled counsel must consider their client’s individual circumstances, staffing needs, and tolerance for legal risk. At Frier Levitt, we stay on the cutting edge of legal guidance in this rapidly-changing field of law and are well-equipped to provide advice and counsel tailored to each client’s unique situation and needs. Call Frier Levitt to day to see how we can help you navigate your company’s COVID vaccination policies.

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