TGH Director of Employee Health Services JoAnn Shea demonstrates a mask hospital employees must wear if they haven't had a flu shot.
Tampa, FL -- Knowing which employees have gotten a flu shot at Tampa General Hospital is pretty simple these days. Those who've been vaccinated wear a sticker. Those who haven't wear a mask.
"Our employees have to put (the mask) on, put it over their ears, over their mouth and nose and they have to wear it all day at work from the time they walk into the hospital until they leave," said TGH Director of Employee Health Services JoAnn Shea.
Employees who elect not to get a flu shot also pay $130.
Shea notes the policy covers not just hospital employees, but also vendors, volunteers and students who work at the medical facility too.
The masks must be worn until March 31.
TGH adopted the new policy to try and hit The Joint Commission's 2020 goal of having 90% of all health care providers being vaccinated each year. Shea says the new policy seems to be working.
"Last year we had a 64% rate, this year as of yesterday our rate is 96%," Shea said.
But TGH is not the only local medical center requiring employees to wear a mask if they don't want to get a flu shot. Moffitt Cancer Center also has a similar policy, although they do not require employees to pay an additional fee for not getting a vaccine.
So far Bayfront and Baycare have not modified their employee vaccine policies. Both say they strongly encourage -- but don't require -- a flu shot.
Across the country, some hospitals are now requiring the shot as a condition of employment. Refusing a flu shot ultimately cost oncology nurse Joyce Gingrich her job in Indiana.
"I knew right away I would have to walk away from getting the shot. Why? I have a personal conviction that I don't want to have one in my body," Gingrich recently told a reporter.
But experts note in "at will" states like Florida, requiring employees to get a shot is not illegal and not just for health care providers.
"So a restaurant could, a toy store could, a big box retailer could. Anyone can really require what they like as a condition of employment," said Adjunct Professor of Law at Stetson University College of Law Adam Levine.
He told 10 News there is one exception.
"They can't require it if it's going to impact a protected interest, a religious interest, a liberty interest, something that's a constitutional right."
At TGH, those granted an exemption must still wear a mask, but Shea says they do not have to pay the $130 fee.