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Essentia Healthcare fires 50 staff for refusing flu shots

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in Employment Law,HR Management,Human Resources

Over the objections of three unions, Duluth’s Essentia Healthcare fired 50 employees in November when they refused to get influenza vaccinations.

Citing the risk to patients at its 15 hospitals and 75 clinics, Essentia required employees to get vaccinated or provide documentation substantiating medical or religious objections to the inoculations. Employees suffering from documented vaccine allergies or a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome could opt out of the vaccine.

The United Steelworkers, which represents some Essentia employees, unsuccessfully sought an injunction against the firings in federal court. The Minnesota Nurses Association and the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Council 65 filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board. Those complaints are still pending.

Essentia’s patient safety officer, Dr. Rajesh Prabhu, stated that flu vaccines lower the risk of illness 40% to 60%. He dismissed claims that the inactive virus in the vaccine can sicken those who get the shot and that a vaccine that is only partially effective should not be mandatory.

Note: When implementing a mandatory vaccination policy, an employer must show a compelling reason for the policy and allow legitimate medical and religious objections. Time—and the NLRB—will tell whether Essentia met those standards.

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