Legal-Ease: Can I be forced to wear a mask or get vaccinated?


By Lee R. Schroeder - Guest Columnist



Questions arise concerning the rights of schools, employers, businesses and governments to require masks or receipt of Covid vaccines.

Constitutionality

It is almost certainly Constitutional for any school, employer or government to require masks or vaccinations.

If someone has a legitimate medical condition that precludes wearing a mask or getting vaccinated, that person may be excused from a general policy concerning masks or vaccines. However, self-diagnosis or internet-based “proof” of a medical condition is insufficient. A legitimate physician must medically reach that conclusion on a case-by-case basis, almost always in writing.

Similarly, sincerely held religious beliefs can usually prevent someone from being forced to wear a mask or get vaccinated. But the belief must be sincere and must be religious, not just a personal conviction on the topic, even if the devotion to that personal conviction is so strong so as to be considered a “religion.” With that being said, a formal religion is not required. Instead, aversion to masks or vaccination that satisfies this exception usually must only be a component of an organized set of moral or spiritual beliefs.

Federal law on masks and vaccination

Just because something is Constitutional does not mean that it is lawful. The federal government has not enacted legislation that specifically requires masks or vaccinations, but the CDC obviously has broad authority to prevent and minimize diseases. Due to the political volatility of these issues at this time, it is unlikely that Congress will pass nationwide laws to require either masks or vaccines. Nevertheless, if a law requiring vaccines or masks is passed, that law would likely be Constitutional.

Ohio law on vaccination

In Ohio, the government could also pass legislation to require masks or vaccinations. However, instead, Ohio passed a law that will preclude public schools at all levels from requiring any vaccine that does not have full FDA approval. Of course, the Pfizer vaccine has recently received full FDA approval, which decreases that law’s practical effect.

There is no applicable law that stops private schools and businesses from requiring vaccination, so the Constitutional standard of permissibility applies. In other words, generally, a private school, private employer or other private business can require vaccination to attend, work or conduct business there.

Ohio law on masks

Likewise, there is no specific law that stops public or private entities alike from requiring the wearing of masks. Therefore, the entity or person in control of that location can require masks to be worn at that location.

During the pandemic, Ohio law has been interpreted to allow the Governor, on behalf of the Governor, to require masks at various times at various locations throughout the state.

General Summary

Laws requiring masks and vaccines are almost always Constitutional. There are currently no federal or Ohio laws that mandate vaccines. Ohio’s governor can mandate masks. Since there are no laws that prohibit private people and businesses from requiring masks or vaccines, masks and vaccines can be required by private entities as a condition of employment or presence.

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By Lee R. Schroeder

Guest Columnist

Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.

Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.

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