EEOC Clarifies Vaccine Stance
by David Klemt
American employers have the right to require Covid-19 vaccination as a condition of employment.
This is according to recent clarifications from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Perhaps learning from yet more missteps from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the EEOC is making their position clearer.
Per the EEOC, requiring workers to get a Covid-19 vaccine doesn’t violate federal law.
However, an employer failing to provide “reasonable accommodation” in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act would be illegal.
According to the EEOC’s guidance update:
“Federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19, so long as employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other EEO considerations. Other laws, not in EEOC’s jurisdiction, may place additional restrictions on employers.”
Additionally, employers who offer on-site vaccinations take on an additional responsibility. They must keep confidential any personal medical information gleaned during employee pre-vaccination screenings.
Of course, the agency’s guidance isn’t only for employers. Employees can access a fact sheet explaining pandemic-specific protections that are in place.
The EEOC’s update also addresses the right for employers to offer employees vaccine incentives.
In short, the agency says incentives are legal as long as they’re not coercive. Of course, legal experts will argue that one person’s perception of coercion will differ from another’s.
Really, the only example the EEOC provides for what may constitute a coercive incentive is “a very large incentive” that may make an employee “feel pressured to disclose protected medical information.”
Per a survey by Arizona State University and the Rockefeller Foundation, two-thirds of employers plan to offer vaccination incentives rather than mandates. However, nearly half say they’ll implement mandates if incentives don’t work. Only one-third of survey respondents don’t plan to impose vaccination requirements on employees.
Look, we all know America is a litigious society. Given that, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some states have already banned vaccine requirements and passports.
Nor should it be a shock that lawsuits have been filed by employees challenging the legality of vaccine requirements. At least half of US states have introduced bills seeking to seek to limit COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Operators have a lot to consider when it comes to vaccine requirements and incentives. For example, offering the incentive that fully vaccinated employees can go maskless at work while non-vaccinated workers must wear masks can be a form of discrimination.
Beyond legal challenges, operators must also contend with public perception and backlash. With the divisions plaguing America currently, operators have a lot to think about before requiring Covid-19 vaccines for employees. While some guests will view such requirements as a responsible move that protects employees, guests and the public, others will see it as a massive violation of personal freedoms and a form of tyranny.
Truly, this is a time when operators must seriously draw on their leadership abilities, empathy, and emotional intelligence.
Clearly, the topics of vaccine requirements and vaccine incentives necessitate careful consideration. This is an important leadership moment that hinges on an operator’s understanding of their team, their guests, and the market in which they operate.
Do not make vaccine decisions lightly.
This content is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as legal or other advice. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor does any information constitute a comprehensive or complete statement of the matters discussed or the law. This information is of a general nature and does not address the circumstances of a specific individual or entity. The reader of this information alone assumes the sole responsibility of evaluating the merits and risks associated with the use of any information before making any decisions based on such information.