On May 28, 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its technical assistance that addresses questions regarding vaccines in the workplace under the federal Equal Employment Opportunity laws. The pandemic-related technical assistance comes in the form of a Q&A document.
New Questions Addressed in the Technical Guidance
- Are employers allowed to require a COVID-19 vaccination for employees?
- So long as the employers comply with accommodation provisions of the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees who are present in the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19. Employers should note certain demographic groups or individuals may face greater barriers to receiving a vaccine and could be negatively impacted by a mandate.
- Can employers offer incentives for employees to obtain a vaccination?
- It is not limited or prevented by Federal EEO laws for employers to offer incentives for their employees in order to voluntarily provide documentation or other confirmation of vaccination obtained from a third party, such as a pharmacy, public clinic, or personal health care provider. To remain compliant with the law, employers who opt to obtain vaccination information from their employees must keep the information confidential, in compliance with the ADA.
- Employers who choose to administer vaccines to their employees can offer incentives for employees to be vaccinated but the incentives must not be enforced. As cautioned by the EEOC, a “very large” incentive offered could result in employees feeling pressured to answer confidential medical information since employees are required to answer pre-vaccination screening questions.
- Are employers allowed to provide employees with educational information regarding COVID-19 vaccines?
- Employers may provide employees (as well as their family members) with educational information about COVID-19 vaccines to raise awareness about the benefits of the vaccination. The technical assistance provides additional federal government resources for those seeking more information about how to get vaccinated.
In addition to the updated guidance, the EEOC also published a new resource for job applicants and employees that outlines how federal employment discrimination laws protect workers during COVID-19 to help employees understand their rights at work.
The guidance provided by the EEOC is based solely on federal EEO laws, so be advised that other federal, state, and local laws may present additional restrictions for employers.