My Employer is Strong-arming Me to Get Vaccinated with a Pay Cut


Last month my employer pushed vaccinations so hard I feared I and every other employee who doesn’t want to get vaccinated would be fired.

We weren’t. They didn’t want to lose us.

What we have been told, however, is that we’re getting a de facto pay cut. Apparently unvaccinated employees are to pay a insurance premium surcharge.

Can they do this? Isn’t this discriminatory or illegal?  

What recourse do I and other employees have?


Employers can—and many are—imposing health plan premium surcharges to encourage employees to get vaccinated.

While employers can’t charge different health plan premiums based on their employees’ health factors, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) offers an exception for wellness programs. Employers with these programs can include a surcharge for unvaccinated employees.

Activity-only wellness programs need to meet certain requirements. These include that program is designed to promote health. The surcharge can’t be more than thirty percent of the health plan’s total cost. The employer’s plan needs to provide employees a reasonable way to avoid the surcharge if getting the COVID-19 vaccination is medically inadvisable.  

Your recourse—getting your employer change their OR voting with your feet and finding a different employer.

For more information you can read the guidance issued October 4, 2021 by the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury issued on October 4, 2021 or the National Law Review’s excellent article, Guidance on Insurance Surcharges for Unvaccinated Employees (

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One thought on “My Employer is Strong-arming Me to Get Vaccinated with a Pay Cut

  1. Yes, getting vaccinated is a serious health and wellness issue, and employers recognize that. Employer mandates and surcharges on health insurance are legal. The important caveat that Lynne gave here is that employees with a medical reason for it not being safe or advised for them to be vaccinated need to have some accommodation in this policy so they aren’t charged the surcharge or fired.

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