EEOC Updates Guidance on COVID-19 Vaccination Policies

  • Published
  • 1 June 2021
  • Category
  • News

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released updated technical assistance related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the applicability of federal equal employment laws. The technical assistance explains how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) apply when an employer offers incentives for employees to provide documentation or other confirmation of COVID-19 vaccination.

Highlights include the following:

  • Employers may require all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated against COVID-19 when reasonable accommodation provisions of the ADA, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other EEO considerations are followed. Other laws outside of the EEOC’s jurisdiction may place additional restrictions on employers.
  • From an EEO perspective, employers should be aware that some individuals or demographic groups may face greater barriers to receiving a COVID-19 vaccination than others, and some employees may be more likely to be negatively impacted by a vaccination requirement.
  • Federal EEO laws do not prevent or limit employers from offering incentives to employees to voluntarily provide documentation or other confirmation of vaccination obtained from a third party (not the employer) such as a pharmacy, personal health care provider or public clinic.
  • Employers who choose to obtain vaccination information from their employees must treat it as confidential.
  • Employers administering vaccines to employees may offer non-coercive incentives to be vaccinated. Because vaccinations require employees to answer pre-vaccination disability-related screening questions, a substantial incentive could make employees feel unduly pressured to disclose protected medical information.
  • Employers may provide employees and their family members with information to educate them about COVID-19 vaccines and raise awareness about the benefits of vaccination.

Another newly available resource for job applicants and employees provides basic information about how federal employment discrimination laws help workers who are: being harassed, need extra protection against getting sick, are not being allowed to work, or need a modification of their employer’s COVID-19 safety requirements.

The two new EEOC publications were prepared before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance for fully vaccinated individuals on May 13 and do not specifically address the CDC’s guidance.

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