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The top 5 questions about many NC hospitals' vaccine requirement for employees - answered

On Thursday, several North Carolina hospital systems announced they will require vaccinations for all employees.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — On Thursday, several North Carolina hospital systems announced they will require vaccinations for all employees, after a recommendation by the North Carolina Health Care Association. This decision comes as the Delta variant continues to rapidly spread across our state.

This news prompted a lot of responses on social media, with viewers reaching out with questions. WFMY News 2 rounded up the top five and got answers. 

1. Why are several hospital systems requiring the vaccination now?

The requirement for all employees follows the recommendation of the North Carolina Healthcare Association, and the rise of the Delta variant, which now makes up most COVID-19 cases in the country.

"We don't want to lose a staff member and we don't want to give this infection to anyone who comes to us for care," said Cone Health CEO Mary Jo Cagle. 

2. Is this legal?

The short answer, yes. 

"It's totally legal. All employers can require the vaccine, but no employer is required to have their employees take the vaccine," said Nicole Patino, a Greensboro labor and employment lawyer. 

Plus, it's not uncommon for a hospital system to require vaccinations, even before COVID-19.

"We've been requiring vaccinations for a long time. We require vaccinations for the flu, we require vaccinations for measles, mumps, hepatitis, so this is not a new position it's just a new vaccine," Cagle said.

3. What are the exemptions?

There are two categories, or exceptions, to the requirement. 

"If you have a disability that would prevent you from receiving the vaccination, or if you have a sincerely held religious belief that would prevent you from receiving the vaccination, then you would ask the employer for a reasonable accommodation," said Patino. 

She said for these exemptions, the employer engages with the employee on an individual basis about their unique circumstances to figure out what they can do to make sure the employee can continue to work. 

"[Employees] ultimately won't have a job here if they don't get vaccinated and it's not for medical or religious reasons," Cagle said.

4. Can former employees sue after being let go?

Patino explains - it all goes back to the exemptions. 

"Only if they were denied a reasonable accommodation due to a disability, or a sincerely held religious belief."

5. Can these hospitals - or any employer - ask employees for proof of vaccination?

"Yes, they absolutely can," Patino said.