A requester from a local health district in North Dakota contacted the Network about their “Baby-to-Work” program, which allows participants to bring their infants (six months old and younger) to work and keep them at their workspace (including workspaces involving patient services and client contact) throughout the day.
According to the Parenting in the Workplace Institute, Baby-to-Work programs can bring benefits to both employees and employers. Such programs benefit employees by alleviating child care stress, providing financial savings, giving parents more time with their children, and enabling mothers to breastfeed. These programs can benefit the employers as well by enabling employees to return to work earlier, building employee morale and loyalty, and increasing retention and long-term productivity. As an example, the Network noted that the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services has an infant-at-work program which has been recognized by ASTHO. However, the current Nevada policy states that employees who have regular client or patient contact are not eligible to participate in the program.
Administrators of the program were considering implementing a mandatory vaccination policy that would require infants to have vaccinations consistent with CDC recommendations (specifically, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP) in order to participate in the Baby-to-Work program. The requester asked whether it was legally permissible to implement a mandatory vaccination policy in the Baby-to-Work context, and whether they were legally required to include certain exemptions in such a mandatory vaccination policy.
North Dakota law requires that children be vaccinated against certain diseases in order to attend school or child care in the state. North Dakota law further permits a parent or guardian to obtain an exemption from school or child care immunization for medical, religious, philosophical, or moral reasons. (See North Dakota Century Code § 23-07-17.1.)
The Network noted that the North Dakota statute addresses what is required in the school and child care context, but it does not address what is required in the Baby-to-Work context. North Dakota law generally defines a “child care center” to mean an early childhood program licensed to provide early childhood services to nineteen or more children. The requester’s workplace did not meet this definition, thus, the North Dakota state law did not appear to apply.
With regard to North Dakota, the Network did not identify any case law, legal precedent, or North Dakota statutes requiring or prohibiting specific provisions in Baby-to-Work policies, including vaccine-related provisions. The Network did not identify any laws that would bar administrators of a Baby-to-Work program from implementing a mandatory vaccination policy. Furthermore, because North Dakota statutes are also silent on what vaccination exemptions (if any) would be required in a Baby-to-Work context, the Network did not identify any North Dakota law that requires inclusion of specific exemptions in a mandatory vaccination policy in that context. However, the Network noted that the requester had authority to consider granting exemptions, such as medical exemptions, in furtherance of its public health mission. The Network encouraged the requester to share the research provided with their legal counsel and seek legal advice tailored to their situation.
Network attorneys are available to answer questions on this and other public health topics at no cost to you, and can assist you in using law to advance your public health initiatives. Contact a Network Attorney in your area for more information.
The legal information and assistance provided in this document does not constitute legal advice or legal representation. For legal advice, readers should consult a lawyer in their state.