On May 28th, 2021, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced additions to their COVID-19 guidance, including mandatory workplace vaccinations. In short, it provides employers with crucial information on how to avoid possible workplace discrimination claims during the coronavirus pandemic.
Indeed, as the number receiving COVID-19 vaccines rises, the EEOC wanted to address any questions that employers may have. Overall, the agency added or updated 21 questions and answers since releasing previous guidance.
Background of the Guidance
Chiefly in a “question and answer” format, the updated resource covers EEOC topics important to employers dealing with COVID-19 ramifications. Further, the subject matter discussed all fall under the EEOC’s enforcement of workplace anti-discrimination laws, including the:
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA);
- Rehabilitation Act;
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA); and
- Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).
In addition, the guidance also addresses COVID-19 compliance and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII).
Before the addition of information on mandatory workplace vaccinations, the guidance included the following topics:
- Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Exams;
- Hiring and Onboarding;
- Reasonable Accommodations;
- Pandemic-Related Harassment; and
- Returning to Work
Overview of the Updated Vaccination Guidance
Generally, the critical updates to the technical assistance include the following statements:
- Federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from instituting mandatory workplace vaccinations. However, employers must comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the ADA. Additionally, employers must abide by Title VII and other EEO considerations. Likewise, other laws not in EEOC’s jurisdiction, such as state or municipal laws, may place additional restrictions on employers.
- Overall, EEO laws do not prevent employers from offering incentives to employees who voluntarily provide documentation of third-party vaccinations. Accordingly, if employers choose to obtain employee vaccination information, they must keep that information confidential, according to the ADA.
- Employers that are administering vaccines to their employees may offer incentives for employees to be vaccinated. However, the incentives cannot be “coercive.” Because vaccinations require employees to answer disability-related screening questions, an incentive could make employees feel pressured to disclose information.
- Finally, employers can provide employees with information to educate them about COVID-19 vaccines and raise awareness about the vaccination benefits. Conversely, the technical assistance highlights federal government resources available to those seeking more information about getting vaccinated.
In conclusion, the EEOC wants to remind employers that all EEO laws are in full effect during the global pandemic. Therefore, employers need to remain vigilant in complying with all applicable EEO regulations. In addition to the new mandatory workplace vaccination guidance, the EEOC adds further information about COVID-19 regularly. Subsequently, to keep up to date on the news involving anti-discrimination laws and COVID-19, employers can visit the EEOC Newsroom. While many EEOC laws apply to employers with 15+ employees, many states have laws prohibiting job discrimination. To prevent possible fines or lawsuits, employers need to investigate which, if any, state-specific anti-discrimination laws they need to follow.