Essentia Health employees without flu shots face firing Monday

Employees of Duluth, Minn.-based Essentia Health have a handful of days left to receive flu shots if they have not already. Come Monday, Nov. 20, employees who are not immunized, have no intent to receive flu shots and lack an exemption run the risk of termination.

The red letter day is part of Essentia's new mandatory flu shot policy. This is the first year flu shots are a requirement for working at the health system, save for employees who obtain religious or medical exemptions. The rule applies to students who train and vendors who operate at Essentia facilities, as well as volunteers who give back through Essentia programs.

Essentia employs more than 14,000 people across four states. As of Wednesday midmorning, the system reported 97 percent of employees had either received flu shots or were approved for exemption. At that rate, roughly 420 people run the risk of termination Monday unless they express intent to receive the flu shot that day.

"We don't want to lose any valued employees through this," Miranda Anderson, director of communications for Essentia Health, told Becker's. "We've been vaccinating employees daily. If someone comes to work Monday and says they'll get the flu shot, we'll give it to them. We're very hopeful. We value our employees and we need them."

Ms. Anderson said that those employees who state they will not receive a flu shot are saying they do not want to work at Essentia Health.

Earlier this month, a judge upheld the policy and rejected the United Steelworkers' request for an injunction to halt it, according to Twin Cities Pioneer Press.

Separately, the Minnesota Nurses Association has also taken issue with the new flu shot policy. The union on Nov. 2 filed an unfair labor practices charge against Essentia with the National Labor Relations Board. As of Tuesday, no action had been scheduled in that case, reports the Pioneer Press. Ms. Anderson told Becker's the system does not comment on pending legal affairs. The MNA represents about 2,000 Essentia nurses.

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