"Miranda Rights" for Employees Before Mandatory Vaccination?

Posted by Kevin Koc | Sep 02, 2021 | 0 Comments

Most of us agree - though none of us like crime or criminals -  Americans should be read their Miranda Rights before being interrogated by the police:

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”

Why is this right important? Because an individual should at least know what their rights are before giving up those rights during interrogation by law enforcement. This is so because answers to interrogation could result in loss of life and/or liberty (i.e. a prison sentence or even the death penalty) for the person being questioned.

There is now an increasing number of employers who are not only strongly urging but mandating employees to receive a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus. The mandate carries with it an implication that one must be vaccinated in order to keep his or her job. This mandate however does not come with a legal obligation for the employer to inform an employee of their rights to avoid vaccination in the face of such a requirement. And this is no ordinary requirement by an employer - like being on time for work, or meeting a sales quota - rather, it is one that ultimately requires an employee to give up some of his or her bodily integrity (if not the permanent contents of their body) in order to keep a job.

But whether or not we agree with people who choose not to get the vaccine - there are those who believe refusal to get a vaccine makes one like a criminal - we should be able to agree that such individuals who are placed under a mandatory vaccine policy should be given notice of their rights to avoid such a vaccine:

“You have the right to request an accommodation in lieu of receiving a vaccine. The right for such an accommodation can be supported by either a medical or religious exemption request. An accommodation to such an exemption may or may not be available. You have the right to seek advice from an attorney or medical doctor before getting a vaccine.  Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? 

Considering that imposition of a vaccination policy constitutes an employer's invasion of an employee's right to his or her bodily integrity, it therefore seems that an employee should be given a similar notice of rights as suspected criminals are given before they take actions that can harm their right to life or liberty.

There may be other rights an employee should be informed of by an employer, and my sample "Miranda rights" statement is not meant to be inclusive (for example, perhaps an employee should also be notified of their right to read the vaccine inserts), but I simply raise the question to others: should employees be informed of their rights in light of a mandatory vaccination policy? What are your thoughts?

About the Author

Kevin Koc

Kevin Koc has practiced employment law in Kansas and Missouri for over 15 years and has been a part of several successful jury trials and federal appeals. Prior to becoming an attorney he worked in the Human Resources field where he gained a practical understanding about how the day to day work life of employees is impacted by employment laws.


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