The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has recently provided additional guidance related to COVID-19, regarding questions that may arise under the federal equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws.
Federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19, so long as employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other EEO considerations.
Some key points regarding EEO guidance are listed below:
- Federal EEO laws do not prevent or limit employers from offering incentives to employees to voluntarily provide documentation or other confirmation of vaccination obtained from a third party (not the employer) in the community, such as a pharmacy, personal health care provider, or public clinic. If employers choose to obtain vaccination information from their employees, employers must keep vaccination information confidential pursuant to the ADA.
- Employers that are administering incentives for employees to be vaccinated, should make sure that such incentives are not coercive. Since vaccinations require employees to answer pre-vaccination, potentially disability-related screening questions, a very large incentive could make employees feel pressured to disclose protected medical information.
- Employers may provide employees and their family members with information to educate them about COVID-19 vaccines and raise awareness about the benefits of vaccination.
The relevant federal laws (EEO, EEOC, ADA and GINA) regarding Covid-19 vaccinations are complex and a potential landmine. Employers should seek legal guidance before implementing any Covid-19 mandates.