By Christopher T. Vrountas, Esq. and Allison C. Ayer, Esquire, Vrountas, Ayer & Chandler, P.C.
On December 16, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) once again updated its guidance concerning COVID-19, this time to address vaccinations. Just as with past guidance, the new information regarding vaccinations comes in the form of questions and answers that show up in the last section of the EEOC’s COVID-19 technical assistance publication. These are some of the highlights:
The EEOC has taken the position that the ADA, GINA, and Title VII do not prohibit employers from requiring their workforces to be vaccinated against COVID. In other words, employers are generally permitted to require employees to get the COVID vaccine and/or to ask their employees for proof of a COVID-19 vaccine without running afoul of EEO law. But that does not mean all required vaccination program comply with EEOC laws.
In short, there is no easy bright line rules for COVID vaccine protocols. Employers can lawfully implement COVID vaccine requirements. But they should avoid automatically firing an employee or excluding him/her from a worksite only on the basis that the employee has not obtained the vaccine. The EEOC has now made clear that even in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, employers must make efforts to ensure they attempt to accommodate employees who have cannot be vaccinated for legally protected reasons, such as disabilities and/or religious belief.
Here are some considerations for employers set forth in the EEOC guidance to help employers evaluate how to lawfully require their employees to be vaccinated for COVID:
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