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Proposed Bill Would Eliminate Flu Shot Requirement for Healthcare Workers in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, it is fairly standard practice for employers – especially employers in the healthcare industry – to require employees to obtain a seasonal influenza vaccination.  Generally, employees in Wisconsin cannot refuse workplace policies requiring an influenza vaccination absent a religious exemption or specific health reason.  Currently, a Wisconsin employee can be terminated for refusing to obtain the required vaccination.  However, a proposed bill currently pending in Wisconsin would completely change these common practices. 

Proposed Assembly Bill 247 would prohibit Wisconsin employers (including hospitals, nursing homes, and other employers in the healthcare industry) from demoting, suspending, firing, or discriminating against employees who refuse to get vaccinated against the flu.  Indeed, the bill, among other things, would prevent all Wisconsin employers from doing any of the following:

  • Refusing to hire or renew the contract of an employee on the basis of whether or not they have obtained an influenza vaccination;
  • Requiring an employee or contractor to obtain a vaccination if the person already refused to do so in writing; and
  • Requiring unvaccinated employees or contractors to wear a health mask as a punishment for refusing to obtain the vaccination (although health care employees could be required to wear certain, undefined, types of masks).

If the proposed bill is enacted, employers would be required to provide written information to their employees about the pros and cons of vaccination and about their right to refuse a vaccination without discrimination.  Additionally, employers requesting that their employees obtain a vaccination would need to arrange for it and cover all costs.  Employers would still be allowed, however, to send employees home who showed signs of influenza.

If the bill passes, Wisconsin employers (especially healthcare employers) will need to carefully review their current influenza vaccination policies and make any necessary changes to avoid any risk of liability.  Stay tuned to the Employment Law News Feed for updates on the bill's progress.


About the Author

Barret Van Sicklen is an attorney practicing out of our Madison office. He is a member of the Labor & Employment Relations, Litigation, and Real Estate & Land Use practice groups. Contact Barret by email or by phone at 608.252.9386.

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