(Headline USA) An employment attorney in Charlotte, NC is warning those who seek religious exemptions from mandatory COVID vaccines in the workplace could fail, because businesses have liability if they fail to protect workers from the virus.
Josh Van Kamp told local area channel WSOC-TV that employers “have a duty to protect workers from recognized hazards and COVID-19 is a recognized hazard. It can kill you.”
“I would be more concerned about employees suing me for having a dangerous workplace,” said Van Kamp. “It can’t just be a personal belief. It has to be based specifically on the teachings of that person’s church.”
Earlier this week the Pentagon said it would accept religious exemptions for the COVID vaccine, but military members who choose to present a religious exemption letter would be subject to counseling.
An exemption may make the member ineligible for deployment, travel, or even certain assignments.
Still it’s unclear what those religious exemptions might look like.
Van Kamp says that taking other vaccines, like the flu vaccine, may undermine the argument for a religious exemption.
Courts may also look at whether religious vaccination exemptions are universal inside a church, or just strongly held personal beliefs by some members of the church as in the case of the Catholic church.
For private employers the liability of discrimination suits for forcing workers to vaccinate may outweigh the liability that comes with workers getting COVID at work.
Either way, employers have tough decisions to make.
Last week the Los Angeles Times reported that a number of large employers such as Tyson Foods, Google, United Airlines, Walgreens and Walt Disney decided to require vaccinations for employees.
But how they might deal with religious objections is difficult to say.
“Every employer that decides to mandate vaccination paves the way for other employers to feel safer doing so,” said Sharon Perley Masling, an employment lawyer who leads the COVID-19 task force at Morgan Lewis.