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Nov 302012

Germs might not be the only thing you need to worry about if you decide not to get a flu shot.

Just ask one of the 150 employees who were fired from a Cincinnati-based health center the Wednesday before Thanksgiving for not getting the vaccine.

The center, TriHealth, has a policy that each individual of its more than 10,000-person staff be vaccinated against the flu. The health center was offering the vaccine free of charge on-site and gave workers a month in which to comply with the mandate prior to a November 16th deadline.

Apparently, the center is not alone in their requirement. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have passed laws requiring health workers to get vaccinated or some other form of treatment and such policies are becoming increasingly common in the workplace. Many do, however, allow workers to seek exemptions for religious or medical reasons such as allergy.

While many employers and insurance companies urge employees to be vaccinated against the flu, health systems have begun requiring them in an effort to better protect their patients and workforce.

According to TriHealth spokesman Joe Kelley, “The flu vaccine still is the best way to protect our employees and our patients against the flu.”

Regardless of the employees’ reasoning, whether philosophical or religious opposition to the vaccine to simple laziness, health center officials took the matter seriously and enforced their policy by handing out termination notices for the third year in a row for failure to comply.

The terminated workers do have the opportunity to appeal and be re-instated to their positions with one stipulation: provide proof of receiving the flu shot, which TriHealth will continue offering until December 3rd.

Most likely we can all agree that safety in the workplace for both employees and consumers is of utmost importance, but have policies gone too far? Some labor groups think so, citing failure to provide exemptions and critics of this particular policy point to research showing a mere 59% effective rate of the flu vaccine.

So, in the end, is this really a matter of safety or just one more policy with the potential to infringe on employee’s personal rights?

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