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The Bar Bulletin
Jax Daily Record Thursday, Aug. 5, 202105:00 AM EST

Understand the compensability of adverse reactions

Employers should weigh the benefits and risk of COVID-19 vaccination policies.

By Blake Hood, Boyd & Jenerette

As COVID-19 vaccines continue to roll out, employers may be considering whether to provide, encourage or otherwise adopt policies regarding vaccination of their employees.

One question an employer should consider is, if an employee has an adverse reaction to the vaccine, will the employer be responsible for medical treatment and/or disability benefits for time missed from work under workers’ compensation?

Blake Hood

In the case of Monette v. Manatee Memorial Hospital, 579 So.2d 195 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991), the claimant worked at a hospital and had an adverse reaction to a flu shot. The employer offered it free of charge to its employees and it was voluntary. 

The 1st District Court of Appeal held that the adverse reaction was compensable. It stressed that it was “undisputed that the flu vaccine was administered to claimant by a hospital employee, in the hospital emergency room, during claimant’s normal work shift. The circumstances of this case indicate that the allergic reaction claimant experienced flowed as a natural consequence of her employment.” Id. at 197.

The court also said the adverse reaction likely would be compensable under the personal comfort doctrine, noting that “[b]y availing herself of the offered flu shot, claimant’s effort to avoid illness that would impair her work performance is incidental to her employment….[and that] an employer derives a benefit from maintaining the health of employees in much the same fashion as an employer is benefited by improved employee morale under the personal comfort doctrine.” Id. 

Therefore, the legal determination of compensability in such cases will likely depend on the factual details of the “when, where, how and by whom” the vaccines are administered. 

As always, there will not be a one-size-fits-all answer for every case, but employers should consider the benefits as well as the risk of compensable injuries resulting from providing or requesting their employees to receive vaccines.

Blake Hood is a partner at Boyd & Jenerette and board certified by The Florida Bar in workers’ compensation law.

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