US companies can mandate COVID-19 vaccination, EEOC says

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U.S. employers can legally require employees physically entering the workplace to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, according to updated guidelines from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

An employer would not violate EEOC laws by implementing a mandate, if it complies with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other equal employment opportunity considerations, the EEOC said in a May 28 guideline.

Under federal law, employers must provide "reasonable accommodation," such as temporarily changing a worker's job duties or modifying work schedules for employees who have a disability or sincere religious beliefs against vaccinations, according to the EEOC.

The federal agency stated that "other laws, not in EEOC's jurisdiction, may place additional restrictions on employers" and that "employers should keep in mind that because some individuals or demographic groups may face greater barriers to receiving a COVID-19 vaccination than others."

The EEOC's updated guideline also allows employers to offer incentives to employees to voluntarily provide documentation or other confirmation of vaccination obtained outside of their employer.

The EEOC also said employers administering shots may offer vaccination incentives for employees, "as long as the incentives are not coercive."

The EEOC's newest guideline comes after an April 28 EEOC hearing regarding the pandemic and civil rights in the workplace.

EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows said in a news release that the federal agency will continue to clarify and update its guidelines and continue to address issues raised at the recent hearing.

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