Nebraska employers can require workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine

Lincoln attorney Vince Powers says that it's unlikely most employers will actually require it, but they have the authority to do so if they want.
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Can your boss actually require you to get a COVID-19 vaccine when the time comes? Lincoln attorney Vince Powers says the short answer is yes – but there are exceptions.

“For the most common people, at-will, yeah, your employer can say take a test [vaccine] or get another job.”

Under Nebraska law, Powers, a trial attorney who specializes in employment litigation, says that most employers in Nebraska don’t need to provide a reason to terminate an at-will employee. It’s a different story, however, for employees who are under a contract or part of a collective bargaining agreement through a union. 

“Most people don’t realize how easy it is to be fired in Nebraska if you’re not in a union or if you don’t have a written contract,” Powers says. “If you stop and think about it, you can be fired for any reason or no reason. A fair reason or a not fair reason.”

That is, of course, if the reason for termination doesn’t fall under what’s called article seven, which protects workers from being fired due to their race, age or sec. 

Powers says there are, however, some exceptions for at-will employees.

“You know, a serious medical condition, you’re allergic to that vaccine, ‘hey I looked at the contents and my doctor says that’s a threat to my health,’ OK, well,  you’re going to need a doctor to say that,” Powers says.

For those who would fight back against a vaccination and seek an attorney’s advice, Powers says they likely wouldn’t be successful. 

Although he says he doesn’t expect many employers to actually require the vaccine, it is still a possibility.

“An employer has the right to set the terms and conditions of employment. An employer does not have to risk the health of other employees.”

In the same sense, an at-will employee could pursue legal action against their employers for not requiring it and potentially endangering their health.

Powers’ advice to employers would be to not require it, but strongly suggest it.

“I would say to employees, we really, really want you to do this, we think it’s in your best interest, but I’m not going to fire you if you don’t. But, at the same time I can see why if I have a nursing home, if I’m advising anyone in healthcare…get it,” Powers says.

Even CHI Health and Bryan Health both say they will not be requiring the COVID-19 vaccination for their healthcare workers, but strongly encourage it. The Lincoln Police Department will also not be requiring members to take the vaccine.

 

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