Employers could face charges for forcing workers to take jab

AS the debate continues over the decision by some employers to demand that employees take the COVID-19 vaccine in order to keep their jobs, a local attorney is warning that criminal action could be taken against the heads of these entities.

According to attorney-at-law Michael Williams, people who are forced to take the vaccine by their employers should report the matter to the police.

“If an officer or manager of a company causes an ‘innocent agent’ to administer a medical procedure to someone who has not consented, the manager or officer would be committing an assault, especially if after its administration the person has an adverse reaction,” Williams told the Jamaica Observer.

He argued that no criminal action could be taken against the person who administered the vaccine as an “innocent agent” without knowing that the employee was unwilling to take the jab and was only doing so under threat. But Williams said the employer should be charged under the Offences Against the Person Act and face prosecution.

“If you can’t stick it [the charge] because you cannot find that section in the legislation, it would stick at common law,” argued Williams.

The attorney said the worker could also carry a civil suit against the employer for trespass to the person, and seek financial compensation.

“It has long been established that if you administer medical treatment to someone who refuses same… you are guilty of an assault. But it goes deeper than just an assault, it is a breach of people’s constitutional rights. The inviolability of the person is at stake here,” added Williams.

He also pointed to Jamaica’s labour laws as he argued that to demand that employees take the vaccine or resign would be considered a technical firing.

Williams said he has a client whose employer has told her that if she does not take the COVID-19 vaccine she would be reassigned to a post that carries a lower salary.

“Administratively, the employer could reassign her but what he cannot do is punish her and that would be punishment in law. Anything that affects a worker’s pecuniary interest [and] that causes a worker to get less pay because they have refused to take the vaccine would constitute forcing the worker,” declared Williams.

The issue of “jab or no job” has been hotly debated since last week when the Observer first reported that a Corporate Area-based firm had given its employees 14 days to take the COVID-19 vaccination or submit their resignations.

The company subsequently withdraw the memo and in a release said that it was committed to the well-being of all its team members and their families and strongly encouraged the team members to take the vaccine, in an effort to safeguard themselves and their families from the varying levels of damage that can be caused by COVID-19 across all age groups.

“Team members who, for medical reasons, cannot be vaccinated, can provide written exemption reports from their doctors,” the company said.

The company also declared that no one would be asked to resign if they fail to receive the vaccine.

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