Vaccine Requirements in North Carolina – Are They Legal?

Last Thursday, managing partner and employment attorney, Laura Noble, appeared on WRAL News to discuss Governor Roy Cooper’s recent direction regarding COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

Lena Tillett: The governor will enforce the rules for more than 50,000 state employees, and many have asked if today’s order is actually legal. WRAL’s Joe Fisher joins us live in Raleigh with what the experts have to say. Joe?

Joe Fisher: Lena, we’re outside Player’s Retreat in Raleigh, which is not only requiring vaccinations for its employees but also customers. Today I got a chance to talk with two local employment attorneys who say it is legal. And while Governor Cooper is not mandating state employees get vaccinated, those attorneys say that would be legal, too.

Driven by the delta variant, the virus is spreading rapidly.

Governor Roy Cooper: We are at a crossroads in this pandemic.

Joe: Governor Cooper is directing state agencies to require proof of vaccination. Those who are unvaccinated must wear masks indoors and be tested for COVID weekly.

Daniel Meier: They’re saying we want to require it, but we don’t want to turn this real political and get the general assembly all upset.

Joe: Employment attorney, Daniel Meier, says the government and private businesses can require vaccination.

Daniel: It’s legal provided if you have a disability or a sincerely held religious belief.

Joe: In which case, an employer must provide accommodations if possible.

Daniel: He can say get vaccinated or lose your job. It can be a condition of employment.

Joe: Cooper is strongly recommending businesses follow the state’s lead.

Governor Cooper: By now, being a good corporate citizen means getting your people vaccinated.

Joe: But to avoid any liability issues, attorney Laura Noble suggests businesses offer incentives over a mandate.

Laura Noble: Where they offer additional paid time off, or they offer a bonus, or they offer a gift card for their employees that are vaccinated.

Joe: Katie Long is a stay-at-home mom who supports businesses requiring vaccines to better protect the community, including the youngest population not yet eligible for a shot.

Katie Long: Certainly, our wish for our family, for those who cannot be vaccinated, at the age of nearly 2, would be to encourage everybody to get vaccinated and possibly even require it so that we could all feel comfortable enjoying the same things.

Joe: And attorney Laura Noble also says many people have personal reasons or just general anxiety over getting vaccinated, and those, Lena, she says are likely not covered under any of those liability exemptions. Back to you.

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