Bob Lian Speaks with BBC on Legality of Vaccine Mandates in the Workplace

Bob Lian, head of the labor and employment practice at Akin Gump, spoke with BBC World Service for a story on employer and employee rights in the debate over vaccine mandates in the workplace.

According to Lian, employers in the United States, “have the rights to establish the terms and conditions of employment under which employees work, and employers can indeed mandate that their employees receive a vaccine and come to work vaccinated.”

While there are exceptions, in the case of disabilities or religious beliefs, Lian pointed out that “short of accommodations that need to be made in that regard, employers have the right to require their employees to receive a vaccine and to come to work vaccinated as a condition of employment.”

Lian stated that the origin of this employer discretion is “grounded in the at-will employment doctrine, which says in effect that either the employer or the employee can end the employment relationship at any time, for any reason with or without cause and with or without notice.” In effect, he said, this means that an employer “can change the terms and conditions of employment under which employees work.”

Lian added that it is also founded “on a health and safety motivation because employers want to make sure they’re not creating liability for themselves, they’re not putting their employees in harm’s way, they’re not causing situations where employees congregate in the workplace and potentially expose one another, given the outbreak of the delta variants.”

To listen to the full interview, which also touches on whether there is any exception made on a state-by-state basis, please click here.