Kelowna-based lawyer David Mardiros guides readers through whether employers might lawfully be able to implement mandatory COVID-19 vaccine protocols. (Kent Employment Law photo)

Kelowna-based lawyer David Mardiros guides readers through whether employers might lawfully be able to implement mandatory COVID-19 vaccine protocols. (Kent Employment Law photo)

Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

With COVID-19 vaccines expected to reach the masses in July, questions are being raised as to whether employers in B.C. will take a step further and require worker immunization.

Kelowna-based lawyer David Mardiros, with Kent Employment Law, said the issue isn’t a new one – it’s come up in B.C. arbitrations at least twice.

In 2006, arbitrators upheld a hospital’s policy, forcing a union nurse to either immunize from influenza during an outbreak or take an unpaid leave of absence at work.

So far, in B.C. “most cases have been within the healthcare sector,” Mardiros said.

Another was settled with the employee consenting to wearing a mask to work during an influenza outbreak in 2013.

“It was an option the employee found reasonable.”

RELATED: B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

The COVID-19 pandemic is new and uncharted territory for employers and employees across the province, with every workplace impacted by its spread.

Though enforcing work policies is legal, whether a wide-reaching vaccination mandate would hold up in court is another matter, Mardiros said.

Ultimately, an employer must make the case – using expert science – that requiring their staff to be vaccinated from COVID-19 is necessary.

Especially when “an accommodation can be made where worker can work from home or use personal protective equipment to prevent transmission of the disease.”

In bustling restaurants, where employees are frequently interacting with the public, such a case might prove more reasonable, said the lawyer.

“However, if their case can’t be proven, an employee fired for not vaccinating could sue for wrongful dismissal.”

READ MORE: B.C. turns to second doses of COVID-19 vaccine as supplies slow

Some halthcare workers and those in longterm care homes in B.C. were the first to be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in December.

Currently, the province has not made the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for nurses, doctors, and other frontline staff in hospitals. Employees are instead “encouraged” to get it, according to a Jan. 9 statement from the province.

On Friday, B.C. health authorities rolled out a four-phased plan that begins with seniors older than 80 receiving immunizations this February.

By September, members of the general public, as young as 18, are expected to be able to receive their dose.

“We’re all going to have to make the decision: to vaccinate or not,” Mardiros said.



sarah.grochowski@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This Dec. 2, 2020, file photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. (Johnson & Johnson via AP)
Interior Health notes 80 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

108 people in the region have died from the virus

Last week warming temperatures were a concern for Avalanche Canada forecasters, and those trends likely contributed to an avalanche that killed a West Kootenay snowmobiler on Thursday, March 4. Jen Coulter file photo.
Warming trend contributed to Kaslo fatality: Avalanche Canada

Concern for persistent layers has reduced since then

The City of Cranbrook has launched its rain barrel rebate program for 2021. (City of Cranbrook file)
Applications open for 2021 rain barrel rebate program in Cranbrook

The program offers 100 rebates of $50 to those collecting rainwater

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough to cover the average pinky nail but is made up of more than 280 components and requires at least three manufacturing plants to produce. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 immunizations set to begin for age-based cohorts

Eligible seniors can book appointments through a call centre starting Monday, March 8.

Forty-eight vaccination clinics will open across Interior Health beginning March 15. (Canadian Press)
48 COVID-19 vaccine clinics to open across Interior Health

Select groups can book appointments starting Monday

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Montreal Canadiens right wing Paul Byron (41) fights for control of the puck with Vancouver Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes (43) during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Monday, March 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Captain Clutch: Horvat nets shootout winner as Canucks edge Habs 2-1

Vancouver, Montreal tangle again on Wednesday

A special committee has been appointed to look at reforming B.C.’s police act and is inviting the public to make submissions until April 30, 2021. (Black Press media file)
Have thoughts on B.C.’s review of the provincial Police Act?

Submissions will be accepted until April 30

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
New COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna care home includes fully vaccinated seniors: Henry

Two staff and 10 residents tested positive at Cottonwoods Care Centre

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
B.C. woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Most Read