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

The City of Williams Lake is asking for public feedback on whether it should explore the opportunity to host a Greater Metro Hockey League team in Williams Lake. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
City of Williams Lake seeks feedback on hosting junior hockey league team

A league expansion application in Quesnel is also pending

The campground will be inside Quesnel, where the public works building used to be. (City of Quesnel Riverfront Plan)
Quesnel municipal campground project receives $500K in provincial funding

$20 million in funding was given to shovel-ready tourism projects across the province

A timing board was set up so skiers could record their own times. Savannah Robinson, who competes in biathlon as well, got a chance to test her skiing power. She came in second in the 20km classic race. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Cariboo Ski Touring Club ‘So-Lo-Ppet’ results

The Quesnel cross-country skiing group was forced to change because of COVID

Members of the Quesnel RCMP Detachment wore their best pink shirts to support anti-bullying efforts. (Back row – Constable Sean Terry, Sergeant Rirchard Weseen, Constable Bob Kalman, Constable Alyssa MacNeil Middle – Constable Doug Erickson, Patti Thompson, Cindy Osip, Constable Cody Brown Front – Dana Bouchard, Staff Sergeant Darren Dodge, Kellie Hipkin) (Karen Powell Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel RCMP goes pink in effort to stop bullying

Officers and staff from the detatchment participated in Pink Shirt Day

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

The missing camper heard a GSAR helicopter, and ran from his tree well waving his arms. File photo
Man trapped on Manning mountain did nearly everything right to survive: SAR

The winter experienced camper was overwhelmed by snow conditions

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of 3 B.C. men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

Ashley Paxman, 29, is in the ICU after being struck by a vehicle along Highway 97 Feb. 18, 2021. She remains in critical condition. (GoFundMe)
Okanagan woman in ICU with broken bones in face after being struck by car

She remains in serious condition following Feb. 18 incident

Vancouver International Women in Film Festival kicks off March 5.
Women in Film Festival features two B.C. filmmakers

The 16th annual festival kicks off March 5, 2021

The booklet roots present day activism in the history of racist policies, arguing the history must be acknowledged in order to change. (CCPA)
New resource dives into 150 years of racist policy in B.C.

Racist history must be acknowledged in order to change, authors say

Most Read