HLT-520 Workplace Law Scenario Analysis Paper
HLT-520 Workplace Law Scenario Analysis Paper
Although individuals have the right to choose what happens to their body, corporate policies often challenge this right. Parents face scrutiny when they choose to not vaccinate their children, travel is restricted to certain countries until proof of vaccination is provided, and employees may face termination if they decline vaccines mandated by their employer. These requirements are put in place as a effort to protect the public from otherwise preventable communicable diseases – just as OSHA standards protect employees from hazardous workplace conditions.
Each employer reserves the right to adopt whichever policies they believe will benefit their company. Certain policies may not align with individual beliefs, so it is up to a new employee to decide whether or not they are comfortable with these policies once they are offered a position. This paper will examine two workplace scenarios that address personal preferences that conflict with employer policies. The employer in each scenario chose to terminate the employee, so the ramifications of this decision will also be discussed.
According to a study conducted by NORC (2018) at the University of Chicago, up to 41 percent of Americans did not intend to get the Flu vaccine this past season. When asked why they did not plan to receive the vaccine, the most prominent response (36 percent) was related to concerns about the vaccine’s side effects, and 31 percent cited concerns about getting sick from the vaccine. An additional 31 percent claimed they never fall ill with the flu, so they did see a reason to get vaccinated. In scenario 1, Nurse Deb declined the vaccine although her employer stipulated that this was an annual requirement to continue employment. As a result of her defiance, the Nurse Manager terminated Nurse Deb. Out of retaliation, she decided to file a wrongful termination suit against the hospital in which she was previously employed.
The Director of Nursing is ultimately responsible for all policy enforcement actions, amongst other responsibilities. In this scenario, it would be wise to consult with Nurse Deb to understand her reasoning behind not wanting the vaccine. Foregoing vaccines is often frowned upon in society, but some individuals choose to not be vaccinated as a result of a health condition.
“An employee who refuses vaccination because of a reasonable belief that he or she has a medical condition that creates a real danger of serious illness or death (such as serious reaction to the vaccine) may be protected under Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) of 1970 pertaining to whistle blower rights” (OSHA, 2009). If Nurse Deb could prove that the vaccine poses a risk to her overall health, she would potentially win her lawsuit thanks to this statute. She could also potentially win the lawsuit if she can prove vaccinations go against her religious beliefs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) created guidelines for employers to assist them in the development a plan that would minimize transmission of a virus such a the flu from spreading. Most employees in the United States work at will, meaning they can be fired for any reason, at any time, as long as the reason for firing is not illegal (such as race or gender discrimination or retaliation for filing a discrimination complaint) (Guerin, 2018).
Considering Nurse Deb (presumably) read and signed an employment contract that contained the flu shot requirement, her termination would be valid based on a breach of contract. If this were true, Nurse Deb would not win her case, and other employees who share in her beliefs without meeting either of the excusable conditions would be faced with either remaining employed or following the same fate.
If more employees opt to not receive the vaccine, it would potentially place everyone in the hospital – staff, physicians, and patients – at risk for contracting the potentially deadly virus. It would be in the Director’s best interest to address the flu shot requirement with all potential new hires in the future to ensure their willingness to comply with this policy prior to being hired.
OSHA requires that employers protect their employees from hazards in the workplace that can cause injury (OSHA, 2018). When workplace practice and administrative rules do not provide sufficient employee protection, employers must provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to their employees and ensure its proper use. PPE is equipment worn to minimize exposure to a variety of hazards (OSHA, 2018).
Some examples of PPE include gloves, foot and eye protection, protective hearing devices (earplugs, muffs, etc.) hard hats, respirators and full body suits. In Scenario 2, Joe Gomez of Premier Hospital witnessed his manager working on a potentially hazardous HVAC system without wearing proper PPE.
Without PPE, Joe’s manager was potentially exposed to highly contagious viruses. This not only placed his manager in danger, but everyone around him as well because he could have become a vector for illness throughout the hospital. Out of concern for his manager’s safety (and for the safety of everyone within the facility), Joe reported this activity to his employer’s Compliance Officer, which resulted in his unlawful termination.
The Whistleblower Policy
Section 11(c) of the OSH Act – commonly referred to as The Whistleblower Policy – protects those who are considered to be whistleblowers. A whistleblower is defined as “an employee who reports an activity that he/she considers to be illegal or dishonest to one or more of the parties specified in this Policy” (SHRM, 2016). The whistleblower is expected to notify appropriate management officials immediately so that an investigation can take place.
Although Joe followed protocol, his direct supervisor terminated his employment without just cause. If Joe was a member of a workplace union, this would not have occurred as easily. Nonunion employees are typically hired “at will,” meaning they can be fired for any non-discriminatory reason. Union employees can only be terminated for “just cause,” and the misconduct must be serious enough to merit such action.
Before an employee can actually be fired, he or she can go through a grievance procedure, and if necessary, arbitration (Keller, 2012). Whistleblowers cannot legally be fired for following protocol in either scenario. It would be in the best interest of Premier Hospital’s CEO to offer Joe is original position back and to reprimand Joe’s supervisor for taking retaliatory action against Joe. Appropriate disciplinary actions for his supervisor can include verbal or written warnings, probation, or even termination for violating procedure and abusing his position.
Workplace law aims to protect the employee, employer, and those affected by the actions of each party by laying strict guidelines pertaining to procedures performed in the facility. Healthcare professions come with additional risks due to the higher rate of exposure to communicable illnesses. Many employers require their employees to receive certain vaccines annually, which may go against personal wishes. As long as certain parameters are met, exceptions are permitted because additional protective measures are also regularly used. One such measure is the use of PPE in hazardous conditions.
Compliance officers are ultimately responsible for ensuring the proper use of protective gear. If an employee is found to be in violation of PPE policy, it is the responsibility of other employees to notify the Compliance Officer of this digression. Under no circumstances should the reporting employee worry about retaliation for bringing an issue to light. The Whistleblower Policy protects reporting employees from revenge, just as workplace law protects employees and patients in the healthcare setting from unnecessary exposure to pathogens. Both employees in the Scenarios reviewed in this paper exercised their rights as defined by workplace law, and should be able to return to their previous positions without reprimand.
References for HLT-520 Workplace Law Scenario Analysis Paper
Guerin, L. (2018). Forcing Flu shots, employees and health at work. Retrieved from: https://www.lawyers.com/legal-info/labor-employment-law/human-resources-law/forcing-flu-shots-employees-and-health-at-work.html
Keller, L. (2012). The pros and cons of union jobs. Retrieved from: https://www.bankrate.com/finance/personal-finance/ pros-cons-union-jobs-1.aspx
NORC. (2018). 41 Percent of Americans do not intend to get a flu shot this season. Retrieved from: http://www.norc.org/NewsEventsPublications/PressReleases/ Pages/41-percent-of-americans-do-not-intend-to-get-a-flu-shot.aspx
OSHA. (2009). OSHA’s position on mandatory flu shots for employees. Retrieved from: https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/standardinterpretations/2009-11-09
OSHA. (2018). Personal Protective Equipment. Retrieved from: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3151.pdf
SHRM. (2016). Whistleblower Policy. Retrieved from: https://www.shrm.org/resources andtools /tools-and-samples/ policies/ pages/cms_007814.aspx