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Can a company mandate its employees to get a COVID vaccine?

Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 6:09 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - There’s a lot of debate over the constitutionality of vaccine mandates. Some are upset about their jobs requiring them to get the shot.

WTOC wanted to find out if these mandates actually violate your constitutional rights.

Corporations across America are starting to require their employees to get vaccinated. Just this week, New York City announced it will make people prove that they’re vaccinated before they can enter restaurants, gyms, and other indoor venues. We wanted to find-out what people in coastal Georgia think about this trend.

The debate is far from settled. Jesse Maxwell and his young family already had COVID. They decided not to get a vaccine.

“It should not be forced on anyone, because that’s actually taking away someone’s rights,” he said. “Everybody should have free will to make that choice, whether they decide to get it or not.”

Maxwell - a musician, who preaches unity - says he feels requiring or pressuring people into getting vaccinated, is not the solution. “If you enforce it and they decide not to do it, now you’re forcing this family to be homeless and go through all types of struggles because of what they chose, and what they believe in,” Maxwell said. “Don’t force anything on anyone!” But others see it differently.

“I agree with those that are mandating it,” said Bobby Canady. “I think it should be mandated across the nation,” he added. Canady and his wife say, the way they see it, employers have a moral obligation to require vaccinations in order to protect customers, employees, and their families. He has a message for businesses that are requiring it.

“Way to go, atta boy!” he said. “You have a business to run. You have employees that, their livelihoods depend on your employment. Continue. Mandate it!” Regardless of where you stand on the issue, Savannah defense Attorney Michael Schiavone told WTOC the mandates are constitutional. Schiavone’s argued constitutionality cases for 40 years.

“This is absolutely absurd,” he said. “These people have no constitutional right to argue that, somehow, their rights are being violated.” Schiavone said Georgia laws protect businesses over employees, because it’s an employment at-will state. That means an employer can fire you for any reason, as long as it’s not illegal. Vaccine requirements are not illegal.

“You don’t have a right to a job, ok?” Schiavone said. “An employer can hire anyone that he wants. He can make any requirements that he wants as part of your employment. Those kinds of violations can only occur if the government does it.” Schiavone said the only way you could fight a vaccine mandate in court is if you have it written in your contract that your employer can’t require you to get vaccinated.

“It has nothing to do with the constitution,” Schiavone added.

Schiavone said the same rules apply for masks mandates. WTOC asked him if the government could ever make people take a COVID vaccine. He said while he does believe the government has the constitutional right to do it, he thinks it’s very unlikely. He said if that happened, it would likely end up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

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