Many employers in Ontario implemented mandatory vaccine policies in 2021 that required their employees to receive COVID-19 vaccinations to continue working for them, and many of those that did not receive COVID-19 vaccinations were put on an unpaid leave of absence or terminated. Now, given the Omicron variant of COVID-19, public health officials are recommending that Ontario citizens receive COVID booster shots to combat the new, more infectious variant. The question many are asking now is whether their employer can require them to receive a COVID booster shot and what happens if they do not comply.
The practical reality is that an employer’s policy to require a booster shot will be treated in very much the same way as their original COVID-19 vaccination policies in that employers will inevitably place those who do not comply on an unpaid leave of absence or terminate their employment.
The discussion then shifts to whether those who were put on unpaid leaves or had their employment terminated should receive a severance package. There has not been a court decision that has definitively ruled on the matter for non-unionized employees yet, but most in the legal community believe that courts will find that a decision to not receive a COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot does not amount to just cause for termination, and therefore those employees should receive severance packages.
If you are in a position where you are unsure about your legal rights following being placed on an unpaid leave of absence or being terminated due to a COVID booster shot decision, we encourage you to seek legal advice to better understand your rights. We at Whitten & Lublin are happy to provide insight and advice into your specific circumstances. If you are looking for employment lawyers and would like more information about what Whitten & Lublin can do for you, please contact us online or by phone at (416) 640-2667 today.