The measles outbreak at a KinderCare day care center in Palatine Illinois and a separate case involving a student at Elgin Community College has raised questions for employers of all kinds looking to maintain a safe and healthy workplace.
KinderCare changed its medical policy last week and now requires staff members who work with children younger than 15 months to be vaccinated against measles. But should a community college or a grocery store or a hotel mandate that employees be vaccinated?
It’s a tricky question. There are complex laws and regulations that employers have to consider before making decisions that involve personal health even if those decisions affect the workplace.
The general rule is employers can require workers to be vaccinated if there’s a business necessity for a particular job. In some cases, the business necessity is obvious. In hospitals and other health care facilities, employees may treat people with measles or work with patients with compromised immune systems. The risk of spreading disease in health care facilities is so high that many states impose requirements.
State law does not go so far as to require hospitals or similar health care institutions ensure that employees have received the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination.
KinderCare changed its national policy after the outbreak. Until then, the company followed state and local public health guidelines in Washington D.C., and the 39 states it operates in.
If you have childcare in your facility or for that matter, lots of parents, what happens when comes down with measles or their child does? What if it is a call center or location where folks work in close proximity to each other?
In the private sector, companies outside the health care industry don’t have much legal leeway to force employee vaccinations. It would likely be hard for an employer to argue that vaccinations are a “business necessity” if there’s no evidence of an outbreak in the particular workplace. Options can include paid leaves of absence and working from home however not all jobs may allow for that. These are the kinds of things to consider when revising that old pandemic plan!