Can Employers Require Employees to Get Vaccinated?

The issue of whether any government can force people to get the Covid-19 vaccine is a no-brainer for libertarians. For us, the answer is very simple: Of course not. In a genuinely free society, people have the right to decide for themselves whether to get vaccinated or not.

But what if an employer requires his employees to get vaccinated? If they refuse to get vaccinated, does the employer have the right to fire them?

The issue is actually not an esoteric one. Methodist Hospital in Houston required all of its employees to get vaccinated as a condition of continued employment. One hundred and seventeen employees were suspended from work after refusing to get vaccinated.

The employees filed a lawsuit for wrongful termination in U.S. District Court, claiming that their rights had been violated. The presiding judge rejected their arguments and dismissed their suit. He was right to do so, especially from a libertarian perspective.

In a genuinely free society, an employer has the right to set any conditions for employment he wishes. If employees or prospective employees don’t like the conditions, they don’t have to work there. They are free to seek employment elsewhere. 

The judge in the Houston Methodist case correctly pointed out, “[The hospital’s vaccine requirement] is a choice made to keep staff, patients and their families safer…. [Nurse] Bridges can freely accept or refuse a covid-19 vaccine; however, if she refuses, she will simply need to work somewhere else.”

No one has the right to be employed by any particular employer. An employer’s business is private property. The employer has the right to run his business any way he wants, including setting whatever terms and conditions of employment it wishes.

By the same token, no one can be required to patronize any particular business or to work there. If consumers or employees don’t approve of how the business is being operated, they are free to go elsewhere. If a large number of consumers and workers boycott the business, it will likely lose market share and possibly even go out of business, which might cause the business to reconsider its position. 

That’s how things work in a truly free society and a truly free-market economy. The government is prohibited from butting into the process, except to serve as means by which people can peacefully resolve disputes in court, like what occurred in the Houston Methodist Hospital case. 

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at and from Full Context. Send him email.

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