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As an Educator, What Are My Rights Regarding Vaccinations?
posted by: Tamia | March 11, 2021, 02:34 PM   

With the increase in availability of vaccinations, and the prioritizing of educators in many districts, the questions regarding educators’ rights, requirements, and policy have also increased. Here is a one-pager of responses to most recently asked questions surrounding vaccinations prepared by AAE Legal Services. We hope you find them useful and clarifying. The AAE Legal Services team is always available if you have further questions or additional concerns.

  1. Can my district/employer require me to vaccinated?

As the law stands currently, vaccines can be required by both public and private employers. Legal support for this dates back to a 1905 United States Supreme Court case called Jacobson v. Massachusetts. That case arose in the midst of an outbreak of smallpox in Massachusetts and all adults were required to be vaccinated or revaccinated against smallpox. If they didn't get vaccinated, they would have to pay a fine of $5.

Jacobson objected and challenged the law arguing his constitutionally protected liberty interests were being infringed by this mandate.

The  Supreme Court said that states have under their police powers (which is under the Constitution), the authority to enact reasonable regulations as necessary to protect public health, public safety, and the common good. Vaccination mandates constitute exactly that kind of permissible state action to protect the public's health. Even though it's 115 years old, this continues to be the benchmark case on the state's power to mandate vaccination.

Employees objecting to mandatory vaccination may be able to obtain a waiver as discussed under question 3, below.

  1. Can my district/employer require me to show proof of vaccination?

Yes, employers could require proof of vaccination or alternatively proof of a waiver.

  1. Can I get a waiver?

Waivers could be granted based on a health condition or disability made worse by a vaccine under the Americans with Disabilities Act, for religious reasons or any other basis required by law.  Waivers would likely be granted on a case by case basis.

  1. Can I refuse to work with others who are not vaccinated?

Due to confidentiality and privacy protections surrounding health information, it would be very unlikely that you would know if a coworker or student is vaccinated.

Still have more questions? AAE’s trusted staff of legal experts are available to assist AAE members. or call 800.704.7799.

Sharon Nelson is the senior director of legal services for the Assocation of Amercian Educators. In this capacity, Ms. Nelson oversees AAE’s legal services team and works daily with members and panel counsel to address members’ legal concerns. A passionate advocate for educators, Ms. Nelson has been a lawyer focusing on employee rights issues for more than twenty years.

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