According to a new guidance document from the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), employers can legally require employees to get COVID-19 vaccines before returning to the physical workplace. Nevertheless, employers must make alternative arrangements for employees who cannot get the vaccine for medical or religious reasons. Employers must still abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), as well as other federal, state, and local laws concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.
The EEOC also allows employers to create incentives for employee vaccination if they do not pressure employees into sharing confidential medical information and keep vaccination information confidential. Employers may also administer vaccines and general information about the vaccines. Employers must keep all medical information private, including vaccination records.
Employers should also keep in mind that some individuals or groups may have a harder time accessing COVID-19 vaccines than others.
Reasonable Accommodation and the COVID-19 Vaccine
While employers can require a vaccine for entry into a physical workplace, they cannot fire employees who are unable to get the vaccine. If an employee cannot get the COVID-19 vaccine due to medical concerns or religious beliefs, they are entitled to reasonable accommodation, such as continuing to work from home, a private office, or another arrangement.
Employees who cannot get the vaccine are also protected from harassment and discrimination, especially during this troubling time of anti-Asian bias. Even if all (or most) employees are vaccinated, employers must maintain a safe workplace and plan to protect employees from COVID-19.
Guidance Is Updated Regularly
In January, people were asking questions like “Can You Be Fired for Refusing the COVID-19 Vaccine?” Now, vaccines have become a bigger part of our reality, and the EEOC has updated its guidance once again. You can expect more guidance from the EEOC and even agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Organizations (OSHA) as the nation begins to go back to normal.
Outlets like ABC News are also quick to cover any updates and give you general information about updated guidance in plain English.
Still, keeping up with the law during this unprecedented time can be difficult for employers and employees alike.
If you have any questions about your rights and responsibilities as you and your company return to the physical workspace, please contact Shellist Lazarz Slobin. Our experienced employment lawyers are familiar with all the laws surrounding your case, and with high-quality counsel and representation, we can help ensure those laws work for you.
Whether you’ve been the victim of disability or race discrimination, or you want to make sure your reopening plan is compliant with employment laws, please call us at (713) 352-3433 or send us your information online.