Private Duty

EEOC Offers Clarifications, Cautions in New COVID-19 Vaccine Guidance

Updated technical assistance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) clarifies how employers can require or encourage employees to take a COVID-19 vaccine, but attorneys advising employers point out how the document also contains cautions.

The EEOC updated its technical assistance on May 28 to address questions about how federal equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws may be implicated by employer policies related to COVID-19 vaccinations. The agency points out that its technical assistance answers coronavirus questions only from the perspective of federal antidiscrimination laws, and employers must remember other federal, state, and local laws also may affect their policies.

In the updated guidance, the EEOC says federal EEO laws don’t prevent employers from requiring an employee physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated so long as they comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The guidance also notes employers should keep in mind that because some individuals or demographic groups may face greater barriers to receiving a vaccination, some employees may be more likely to be negatively affected by a vaccination requirement than others.

The guidance adds employers can offer incentives for employees to get vaccinated as long as the offerings are “not coercive.” Since vaccinations require employees to answer disability-related screening questions, a large incentive could make employees feel pressured to disclose protected medical information, the EEOC says.