The EEOC released guidance allowing employers to require that employees receive vaccinations for COVID-19 as they become available, subject to exceptions and in compliance with other legal requirements.
A key legal consideration is how to respond to employees who object to the vaccination on the basis of a health factor or closely-held religious belief. An employer must follow the Americans with Disabilities Act’s (ADA) and Title VII’s reasonable accommodations provisions. If a reasonable accommodation cannot be made, the EEOC states that an employer may exclude an unvaccinated employee from the workplace but not necessarily automatically terminate employment.
Other issues include the following:
- Compliance with the Rehabilitation Act, Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and state and local laws.
- If an employer administers the vaccine or contracts with a third-party to do so – Compliance with ADA and GINA, particularly in regard to pre-vaccination screening questions. To minimize or avoid these issues, an employer can offer the vaccine on a voluntary basis or direct employees to get vaccinated by an unrelated third-party.
- If an employer requires proof of vaccination from an unrelated third-party – Compliance with ADA regarding a disability-related inquiry. To avoid this issue, an employer should instruct employees not to provide any medical information.
- Confidential treatment of employees’ medical information obtained in regard to vaccination
Prior to implementing a vaccination mandate, employers should consider all applicable legal implications, some of which may lack clear guidance. Workforce culture and business ethics may be important factors. If an employer decides to mandate the vaccination, they should effectively communicate their policy to employees in advance.
Please see our bulletin with additional information from Maynard, Cooper and Gale below. You will also find a bulletin with more details on the types of vaccines available and how they work.
If you have questions or need help, please contact one of our benefit consultants.