GREENSBORO, N.C. — President Biden just announced a six-part plan to fight Coronavirus, and it includes vaccine mandates for businesses with more than 100 workers, or test those employees weekly.
Nicole Patino, from the Law Office of Nicole Patino, and Gabriel Snyder, with Ward Black Law, explain how mandatory vaccines in your workplace may work.
Can my employer require me to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes, employers have the ability to set terms and conditions of employment under labor laws. That includes getting a vaccine. If you choose not to get the ordered vaccine, you could be fired.
There are exceptions to the rule, but not many. Right now, medical reasons and religious beliefs are the only exceptions. In order to qualify for those exemptions, you'll need to have that conversation with your employer.
Can a business require me to wear a mask if others don’t? Why are they allowed to do that?
Yes, a business can require you to wear a mask for entry. Mask wearing in North Carolina became required as a result of Executive Orders from the Governor’s Office that were put in place to limit, control and decrease the spread of COVID 19. Those requirements began in June 2020 and have continued until recently. On May 14, 2021 most of the mask requirements were lifted due to the decrease and leveling off of COVID 19 cases and the increase in vaccinations. The May 14, 2021 Executive Order continues to require masks in certain businesses and locations, such as healthcare facilities, schools and airports. But, most private businesses no longer have to require you to wear a mask for entry.
Even though masks are not required, businesses can ask you to wear a mask before you enter their property. Businesses such as grocery stores and other retail establishments are considered private property. When you enter private property, the owner of the property can require you to do certain things. This includes wearing a mask. The Executive Order of May 14, 2021 allows businesses to continue to require face coverings in Section 3.6. Many national retailers and other businesses are continuing to require mask to protect both their customers and their employees.
What should I do if I think I contracted COVID 19 at my workplace?
As more and more people are returning to the office after working at home for over a year, I hear concerns about contracting COVID 19 from the workplace. People want to know whether COVID 19 is a disease that worker’s compensation covers in North Carolina. The short answer is "it depends." Typically, for an injury to be covered by worker’s compensation it has to arise out of an accident. However, certain diseases can qualify for worker’s compensation coverage in North Carolina. COVID 19 is not a disease that is automatically covered if you prove you contracted it work. But, if you can prove that you contracted COVID 19 from work and that you are at a higher risk of contracting COVID 19 because of your workplace you may be eligible for worker’s compensation benefits.
If you contracted COVID 19 and believe that it was caused by work exposures, you should notify your employer immediately. You should notify the employer in writing and file a Form 18 with the North Carolina Industrial Commission. If the employer directs you to a certain provider for medical treatment after you should attend that appointment. If you pursue a claim, your employer and their insurance carrier are likely to investigate the claim. The focus in most COVID 19 claims is how to prove that the COVID 19 disease was contracted in the workplace versus anywhere else that the injured worker may have encountered it in their life outside of work.
If you contract COVID 19 and believe that it was caused by work, you should contact an experienced North Carolina worker’s compensation lawyer. The Law Offices of James Scott Farrin has 12 attorneys that primarily handle workers’ compensation cases and are available 24 hours per day at www.farrin.com.