Published on:

Mandatory Vaccinations and New Jersey Religious Discrimination

In mid-January, a bill to remove religious reasons as a valid exception to the legal requirement that schoolchildren receive certain vaccinations failed to make it out of the Senate before the legislative session ended. The bill, if it had passed, would have forced all public school students to be vaccinated unless they had a documented medical reason not to be. Although the bill did not reach the Governor’s desk before the end of the session, legislative leaders have vowed to begin work right away on a new bill, reported.

This particular bill that just failed would have had no impact on New Jersey workers when it comes to vaccinations and valid bases for obtaining an exception to an otherwise mandatory inoculation. If your religion forbids you from receiving medical treatments such as vaccinations, then an employer who forces you either to get inoculated or lose your job may be engaged in impermissible religious discrimination. If you find yourself placed in such a difficult position, be sure to reach out to a knowledgeable religious discrimination attorney to discuss your situation and your options.

In New Jersey, there are various avenues that may allow you to avoid having to undergo a vaccination if your preference is not to have one. One way you can avoid vaccination is if you have a medical condition that makes getting vaccinated problematic for your health. For example, the yellow fever vaccine sometimes contains egg proteins. Medical professionals, such as the Mayo Clinic, generally recommend that people with egg allergies do not get a yellow fever vaccine except under specific situations and under close medical supervision.

So if, for example, your employer mandated that you get a yellow fever vaccine and you had an egg allergy, then you could potentially avoid that vaccine unless the employer could demonstrate that accommodating you would put an undue hardship on its business. Any failure to accommodate in the absence of proof of an undue hardship could possibly constitute impermissible disability discrimination based on your allergy.

New Jersey also has strong protections for the free exercise of religion. Even though most major religions and larger denominations generally don’t forbid vaccination, that doesn’t mean that your religious practices might not entitle you to an exception. For example, a West Trenton flight attendant refused to get a yellow fever vaccine because it contained ingredients derived from animals. The flight attendant practiced a form of Buddhism that forbid her ingesting such things taken from animals. Generally speaking, a situation like this potentially can be a valid basis for religious exception.

Possible pitfalls to look out for

There are ways that employers can try to get around these things and force you to get vaccinated. One possible pitfall you can encounter is an employer that includes mandatory vaccination clauses in its employment agreements. (This scenario is yet another good reminder of the importance of reading all parts of an employment contract before you sign it.)

If you are considering taking a job where the employment contract mandates vaccination and you seek to avoid that outcome, it is very important to speak to counsel. There may be options that allow you to continue pursuing that job while also avoiding vaccination.

The freedom of each person to practice his/her religion faithfully is a long-cherished right for people in New Jersey and across the U.S. That’s why both federal law and the Law Against Discrimination generally prohibit your employer from discriminating against you due to your religion or religious practices. If you’ve suffered that kind of discrimination, talk to the experienced New Jersey religious discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Our attorneys have many years of helping New Jersey workers harmed by religious discrimination on the job to seek justice, and we’re ready to get to work for you, too. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation.

Contact Information