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What the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Has to Say About Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccines in the Workplace

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has shared new guidelines for employers and employees on COVID-19 vaccination guidelines in the workplace. These new guidelines work in conjunction with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) to avoid any overlapping infringement.

EEOC– enforces anti-discrimination laws in the workplace.

ADA– prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, those that require reasonable accommodations, and enforces rules regarding employer medical inquiries.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act– prohibits discrimination based on race, national origin, religion, sex, color, and pregnancy.

GINA– prohibits discrimination of employees or applicants based on genetic information.

Exemptions have been made under the ADA & Title VII for employer-mandated vaccines but are still subject to legally protected exceptions. An employer can maintain a workplace standard in which an individual shall not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals in the workplace. However, this cannot exclude an employee with a disability, AND reasonable accommodations must be made.

If those two cannot be met by the employer, they must prove that an unvaccinated employee would pose a direct threat to the health and safety of other individuals in order to remain in compliance with the ADA & Title VII.

Similarly, if an employer has mandated the vaccine, they are still required to accommodate employees with sincerely held religious beliefs or practices that may interfere with the vaccination- as long as the accommodation does not present an undue hardship to the employer. They may request documentation from the employees to make these accommodations.

For ADA, the COVID-19 vaccine has not been classified as a medical examination. The EEOC states that if an employer is administering the vaccine to an employee- the employer is not seeking information about an individual’s health and therefore not infringing on medical examination guidelines by the ADA.

However, pre-screening questions for the vaccine are still subject to ADA standards and must be job-related and consistent with business necessity. GINA directly prohibits any doctor that is working for the employer, from asking about genetic information that may be necessary for administering the vaccine. For this reason, it may be easier for an employer to request proof of vaccination instead of administering it themselves.

Under circumstances in which there are no reasonable accommodations available for an employee that cannot be vaccinated, the employer can exclude the employee from physically working in the workplace but cannot terminate them immediately. Some employees may be entitled to work remotely or if eligible, take leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

As the pandemic continues, the workplace landscape that surrounds it is ever-changing. It is important that you check with your local officials and trusted HR partners, in any event, to ensure you have the correct and up-to-date information for your organization.

Is there anything Payroll Systems can help you with as you accommodate rapid legislation changes? Reach out and talk to us about the easy-to-scale solutions you need for your business.

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This article provides general information and shouldn’t be construed as legal or HR advice. Since employment laws may change over time and can vary by location and industry, please consult a lawyer or HR expert for advice specific to your business. You can also contact Payroll Systems to inquire about our HR support services.