Ask The Lawyer By: Daniel A. Gwinn, Esq. – “Voluntary” Vaccinations?

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QUESTION: My employer is requiring everyone at work to receive a Covid-19 vaccination. When we get the vaccination, we have to complete a form that says we are getting the shot voluntarily and that we will not sue our employer if we have a negative reaction to the shot. The only reason I am getting the shot is because I don’t want to lose my job. I do NOT want to fill out this form. Can my employer make me?

ANSWER: The form you are being asked to fill out is, essentially, meaningless. Your employer is foolish to ask you to sign it as it does not provide any protection from liability.

If you have been given a choice between getting the shot or losing your job, your decision is not ‘voluntary,’ and being forced (on pain of losing your job?) to sign a form that states it the decision to be vaccinated is voluntarily won’t make it so. Further, you are not giving anything up by stating you will not hold your employer liable if you have a negative reaction to the shot — unless your employer is the one administering it (Note to employers, make sure your employees go to a third party to receive the Covid-19 injection for this reason). Responsibility for any side effects from the vaccine rest with the vaccine manufacturer, distributor and those administering the vaccine – not the employer who asked you to get it.

Because the form is legally meaningless, you can sign it without qualms. And, if refusal to sign would cause problems – whether discipline or possible job loss — it would be in your interest to sign the darn thing and be done with it.

Getting the vaccine is, overall, a good idea. By April, 150,000,000 shots of the Pfizer vaccine – one of the two most commonly used in the U.S. – had been administered in the U.S. and only 0.005% resulted in serious side effects. There have been no deaths related to the vaccine. Your chance of dying from the vaccine is less than the chance of getting struck by lightning. And, unvaccinated, you still have about a 1 in a 100 chance of getting Covid. Almost 600,000 Americans have died of Covid-19, and more than 2 million have been hospitalized. A Chicago study, based on the not-quite-as-effective Johnson & Johnson vaccine, found the risk of contracting the virus was reduced to 0.06 percent – and the vast majority of those cases were asymptomatic.

The EEOC has decreed that an employer may require its workers to be vaccinated as a condition of employment, unless they are medically unable to safely receive the vaccine, or have bona fide religious objections. In that case, the employer must try to find a way to accommodate the medical or religious needs of the worker. For instance, by requiring them to wear a mask, or work from home.

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By: Daniel A. Gwinn, Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
900 Wilshire Drive, Suite 104
Troy, MI 48084
(248) 970-0310
(248) 970-0311 facsimile
[email protected]