Steffanie Rivers

*A friend told me her employer is making flu shots mandatory for its entire workforce of nearly two hundred people. Anyone who refuses the annual vaccine and later calls out sick during the fall or winter won’t receive sick pay.

The debate over whether companies have a legal right to force employees into preventative healthcare grows with each passing year. But as long as the cost of company sponsored health insurance continues to baloon, mandatory flu shots are just the tip of the iceberg.

In right-to-work states such as Texas and Georgia the law allows employers to force their employees to take flu vaccinations as a condition of continued employment.  “Right-to-work” means a company can terminate an employee for whatever it want s except discrimination.

That’s why employees who refuse to take flu shots for religious beliefs or allergies to the vaccine are safe.  But those who refuse the vaccine just because, can call in sick, but won’t be allowed to use the sick pay they’ve earned. And that alone should be illegal.

Just like vacation, employees earn sick days. And just as it’s unreasonable for employers to dictate how an employee spends her vacation, it’s just as unreasonable for employers to dictate which ailments can be considered for sick pay.

I agree that employees are expected to use their sick days for their personal illness, but that should be where the Big Brother act ends.Today its flu shots, tomorrow it could be mandatory vitamin supliments and exercise programs.Where will it end?

I don’t take a flu shot for the same reason I don’t take pain pills or other medication unless absolutely necessary: I want to preserve the strength of my natural immune system. That and historic cases such as the Tuskeegee Experiment keep me ever mindful that some Americans are considered to be expendable guniea pigs. Sure, forcing employees to take a vaccine that could potentially preserve their health, their working environment and save millions of dollars in medical expenses sounds altruistic, but I can’t forget about the pharmaceutical companies that created the vaccines and profit millions of dollars in the process.

What about the effectiveness of the vaccine? Because the influenza strain changes from year to year so must the vaccine in order to stay effective. But if scientists can’t predict the molecular structure of the flu bug for the coming season the flu shot won’t be effective. And that means millions of people will have put a useless drug into their system for no reason.

As a person who is healthier than 80 percent of the American population, I understand the need for preventative health maintenance. And I wish everyone would eat less and exercise more. But companies shouldn’t force employees to take certain actions by withholding earned benefits.I’ve never gotten a flu shot in my adult life, I’ve never had the flu and I rarely call out sick. So if I had to choose between taking the vaccine and being terminated I would take my chances in court with a class action lawsuit.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Send questions, comments or requests for speaking engagements to Steffanie at [email protected]. And see the video version of her journal at youtube.com/steffanierivers.