By Doug Larsen
The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued expanded technical assistance regarding COVID-19 vaccinations and the workplace. Among the updates, the EEOC has concluded that equal employment laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19. The employer must, however, comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the ADA and Title VII for persons with sincerely-held religious beliefs and for individuals with disabilities.
The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) has already issued advice that mirrors the EEOC advice.
In spite of this position, the EEOC advises employers that they may need to respond to allegations that the vaccination requirement has a disparate impact on employees. Some employees in certain demographic groups may face greater barriers to receiving a COVID-19 vaccination, and therefore these employees may be more negatively impacted by a vaccination requirement. For employers in the Central Valley of California, this could include persons in outlying, rural communities.
The EEOC further allows employers to offer incentives to voluntarily provide documentation of vaccination. However, once received, the employer must maintain the confidentiality of the information.
Navigating the constantly changing rules regarding COVID-19 in the workplace is challenging. Contact your legal or HR advisors for assistance with changes to your policies and practices.