Employers can require vaccines and offer incentives, says EEOC
July 15, 2021
Shipman & Goodwin LLP
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Today the EEOC released updated guidance to answer questions it received from employers about vaccines in the workplace. The guidance represents the first content-related update of the EEOC rules with regard to the pandemic since December 2020.
In particular, the new guidelines state that employers:
- Encourage all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated against COVID-19, provided employers comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII reasonable accommodation provisions;
- Provide incentives for employees to show they have been vaccinated against COVID-19;
- Offer employees incentives to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in the workplace if the employer offers vaccinations, unless the incentives are compulsory; and
- Educate employees and their family members about COVID-19 vaccines and the benefits of vaccination.
The EEOC warns that employees must respond to pre-vaccination and disability-related screening questions, and therefore very large incentives could result in employees being pressured to disclose proprietary medical information.
Employers should keep in mind that if they receive vaccination information from their employees, they must keep that information confidential as per ADA. Additionally, other federal, state, and local laws regarding vaccinations for employers and employees may come into play; This guide only addresses vaccination issues under equal opportunity laws, including the ADA and the Genetic Information Nondiskrimination Act (GINA).
With Connecticut and other states lifted many of the pandemic-related business restrictions in recent weeks, employers now have the challenging task of weighing mask requirements, vaccinations, and other health and safety concerns. More guidance from OSHA is expected in the next few weeks that may provide further insight into how employers can address these competing interests.
In the meantime, employers should continue to exercise caution and seek legal advice when making changes.
The content of this article is intended to provide general guidance on the subject. Expert advice should be sought regarding your specific circumstances.
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