Can Private Employers Legally Mandate a Medical Treatment?

We are currently experiencing situations where private employers are “mandating” injections of COVID-19 treatments as a condition to continued employment. Some employees—many of whom have obviously done so against their better judgment—have elected to have the treatments in order to keep their jobs. Others have refused to do so and have either been fired or quit. Some have filed lawsuits. The question is: Can private employers legally mandate these medical treatments as a condition of employment?

As an initial point, I am unfamiliar with any prior instances where private (or government) employers in the United States have attempted to require an employee to take an experimental medical treatment as a condition of employment. We appear to be in uncharted legal waters here. However, most competent lawyers would tell you that the federal chief executive does not have the legal authority to “mandate” that private employers require this, contrary to what President Biden’s legal advisors might be telling him.

Also, note that I am not addressing the situation where these treatments are being required as a condition of obtaining employment in the first place, where prospective employees are free to reject the condition and look elsewhere for a job. I am addressing making the treatment a condition to remaining employed; there is a bit of “bait and switch” going on in such circumstances, particularly in the military or other jobs where employees are contractually bound to a certain length of service and cannot merely “quit” at will. That President Biden is calling for dishonorable discharges for service members who reject his unscientific mandate is particularly and patently egregious.

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