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What are your rights when it comes to religious, medical vaccine exemptions?

More companies are making vaccines mandatory after the Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine last month.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — After the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to Pfizer's COVID vaccine, more companies are making being vaccinated a mandate.

Those include Delta Airlines, Google, Walmart Corporate employees and many others.

But there are religious and disability exemptions that have people wondering about their rights.

Attorney Maribeth Meluch, a partner at Isaac Wiles, said people can object to getting the vaccine under Title 7 of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"The question is going to be by allowing that employee to come to work unvaccinated, does that cause a burden on the employer by increasing the risk of communicating a disease amongst workers or public. The employer has to balance that against whether there's an accommodation," Meluch said.

Those accommodations are to keep everyone in the workplace safe, an obligation employers have under OHSA.

"They don't want to have an unsafe workplace, they're liable for that. They don't want a bunch of sick employees, they don't want employees afraid to come to work, there are OHSA guidelines," Meluch said.

Plus, it's up to the employee to prove there is a religious conflict based on the law because the law is broad and vague.

"If someone says the Catholic church is against it and the other side can prove the Catholic church does not say that, they may be asking for an unreasonable accommodation. And I have seen some applications for exemptions for some universities ask for a letter from the Bishop," she said as an example of what could happen.

As for medical exemptions, OhioHealth said there are very few true medical exemptions for the vaccines.

Those include a known severe allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in the vaccine
For Pfizer and Moderna, if you had a severe reaction (anaphylaxis) to the first vaccine, you'll want to talk to your doctor but you probably should not get the second dose and if you had myocarditis with your first dose, you'll also want to consult your doctor.

Muloch said she has not seen any lawsuits in Ohio when it comes to religious or disability exemptions.
"I think most people are going to be accommodated. There's going to be a way to work remotely, wear a mask, get tested and do your job," Muloch adds.

At the end of the day, an employer is legally allowed to fire you, if accommodations can't be made and you can't prove a religious or disability exemption for the vaccine.

COVID-19 in Ohio: Recent Coverage 


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