Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn
On October 25, 20201, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated and expanded its guidance on “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws” by adding a section titled “L. Vaccinations – Title VII and Religious Objections to COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates” to help employees and employers understand their rights and responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The EEOC’s COVID-19 guidance – which was last updated on October 13, 2021 – provides information about how the EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) that includes a right for job applicants and employees to request a religious or reasonable accommodation from an employer requirement that conflicts with their sincerely held religious beliefs, practices, or observances. Questions added on 10/25/2021 include:
- L.1. Do employees who have a religious objection to receiving a COVID-19 vaccination need to tell their employer? If so, is there specific language that must be used under Title VII?
- L.2. Does an employer have to accept an employee’s assertion of a religious objection to a COVID-19 vaccination at face value? May the employer ask for additional information?
- L.3. How does an employer show that it would be an “undue hardship” to accommodate an employee’s request for religious accommodation?
- L.4. If an employer grants some employees a religious accommodation from a COVID-19 vaccination requirement because of sincerely held religious beliefs, does it have to grant the requests of all employees who seek an accommodation because of sincerely held religious beliefs?
- L.5. Must an employer provide the religious accommodation preferred by an employee if there are other possible accommodations that also are effective in eliminating the religious conflict and do not cause an undue hardship under Title VII?
- L.6. If an employer grants a religious accommodation to an employee, can the employer later reconsider it?
“If an employer shows that it cannot reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs, practices, or observances without undue hardship on its operations, the employer is not required to grant the accommodation,” the guidance stated. For more information about a reasonable or religious accommodation, visit Section 12: Religious Discrimination and EEOC Guidelines on Discrimination Because of Religion.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, transgender status, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information. Most employers with at least 15 employees are covered by EEOC laws. To learn more about the EEOC, visit www.eeoc.gov.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a potentially deadly respiratory illness that spreads from person to person. As of October 29, 2021, there are more than 245 million global cases and more than 4.9 million global deaths, while the United States leads the world with more than 45 million cases and more than 743,000 deaths, according to research from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU).
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