Employers can offer rewards and other incentives to encourage employees to get the Covid-19 vaccine, the U.S. Equal Opportunities Commission said in updated guidelines addressing a legal gray area during the pandemic.
“Federal EEO laws do not prevent or restrict employers from providing incentives for workers to voluntarily submit records or other vaccination certificates issued by a third party (not the employer) in the community, such as a pharmacy, personal health care provider, or the public, received clinic, “said the agency on Friday.
However, employers who administer vaccines to their employees need to ensure that the incentives are not mandatory.
“With vaccination staff having to answer questions about disability screening before vaccination, a very big incentive could lead to employees feeling pressured to disclose proprietary medical information,” the commission said. The agency enforces federal anti-discrimination laws in the workplace, including the Act on Americans with Disabilities.
Employers must also keep workers’ vaccination information confidential if they wish to receive it in order to comply with federal disability law, the agency said.
The guidelines provide clarity on an area fraught with legal issues, although many employers have chosen to incentivize Covid-19 vaccines without an official green light from the civil rights authority in the workplace. The EEOC has updated its guidelines for workers and employers throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Questions revolved around whether the incentives could violate federal anti-discrimination laws if found involuntary, or whether they exclude certain workers who cannot or do not want to take the vaccine.
Corporate groups and Republican lawmakers urged the EEOC to address the issue.
The agency also released a fact sheet for workers to let them know about federal laws that can protect against discrimination during the pandemic.