Legal Insider: EEOC indicates employers could require employee Covid vaccinations

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

As we move forward, employers in the United States will likely be able to require that employees entering the physical workplace be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in guidance issued this past Friday.

Updated EEOC Guidance

The EEOC issued updated guidance stating that federal laws do not prevent an employer from requiring workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. As with everything, there are some exceptions. In some situations, laws may require that an employer provide reasonable accommodations to employees who, because of a disability or a religious belief, cannot be vaccinated.

As an example of this, the EEOC said, as a reasonable accommodation, an unvaccinated employee entering the workplace might potentially wear a mask, work at a social distance or be given the opportunity to telework. There is also the possibility that other federal, state and local laws could be factored into such decisions as we move ahead.

According to the EEOC, if employers choose to obtain vaccination information from their employees, they must keep such information confidential under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Vaccination Incentives

The EEOC also indicated that vaccination incentives could be an option for employers to consider, so long as they are not deemed coercive. As the EEOC stated: “Because vaccinations require employees to answer pre-vaccination disability-related screening questions, a very large incentive could make employees feel pressured to disclose protected medical information.”

In sum, it is very likely that employers will be able to require that in-house employees be vaccinated from COVID-19 prior to entering the workplace. Many of the details will eventually be worked out, but this seems to be the clear direction that the country is heading toward.

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