As the country begins deploying the first Covid-19 vaccines in an effort to get the pandemic under control, many employers now questions if they may legally take the unprecedented step of requiring employees to receive the vaccination to work onsite. Though the majority of people are eager and willing to receive a vaccine, others may object for medical, religious, or ideological reasons.
Not every case is clear cut, but the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently provided guidance that may prove useful for employers and instructive for employees regarding their rights.
Some of the important points made by the EEOC include:
- A Covid-19 vaccine administered by an employer or an employer-contracted vendor is not a “medical examination” regulated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
- If an employee declines a Covid-19 vaccine because of a claimed disability, employers have an obligation to engage in the interactive process to see if a reasonable accommodation is feasible. For example, continuing to allow an employee to work remotely may suffice. If the employee was working onsite, employers may consider how many employees have already received the Covid-19 vaccine and the employee’s contact with others to determine if accommodating the employee is an undue burden.
- If an employee declines a Covid-19 vaccine due to religious belief or practice, employers must extend reasonable accommodation to the employee if possible unless that would constitute an undue burden. Unless there is an objective basis for questioning an employee’s religious nature or the sincerity of a belief, practice, or observance, employers should assume an employee’s religious accommodation request is due to their sincerely held religious belief.
- Employer-administered Covid-19 vaccination or requirements that an employee show proof of vaccination doesn’t violate an employee’s rights under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). However, pre-screening questions asking about family members prior too vaccination may implicate GINA – in these cases, an employer may consider requiring an employee show proof of vaccination rather than administering the vaccine themselves.
Contact an Employment Lawyer Today
The laws and regulations put in place to deal with the issues arising from the Covid-19 crisis make it confusing and overwhelming to keep up with your rights and responsibilities at work. To make sure you and your employer stay on the right side of the law, turn to the experienced California employment lawyers at Rothschild & Alwill, APC with your questions. We are here to answer your questions, help you learn more about what your employer can and cannot require, and make sure you are protected at work.