EEOC Issues Updated COVID-19 Guidance with Information on Vaccinations

Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On May 28, 20201, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) posted updated and expanded guidance related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to address questions arising under the federal equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws and provide additional information about COVID-19 vaccinations to help employees and employers understand their rights and responsibilities, according to an EEOC press release.

“What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws” provides new information about how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) apply when an employer offers incentives for employees to provide documentation or confirmation of vaccination when an employee gets a vaccine. Key updates to the guidance are summarized below:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Employers that are administering vaccines to their employees may offer incentives for employees to be vaccinated, as long as the incentives are not coercive.
  • 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 EEOC also posted a new resource titled “Federal Laws Protect You Against Employment Discrimination During the COVID-19 Pandemic” for job applicants and employees that provides basic information about how federal employment discrimination laws help workers who are harassed, who need extra protection against getting sick, who are not allowed to work, or who need yo modify their employer’s COVID-19 safety requirements.

These two publications follow an EEOC hearing on April 28, 2021, on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on civil rights in the workplace and were prepared prior to the Center for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) guidance for fully vaccinated individuals issued on May 13, 2021, and do not specifically address that new guidance. As new developments occur, the EEOC will provide additional updates and assistance to the public.

The availability of COVID-19 vaccinations may raise questions about the applicability of various EEO laws, including the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act, GINA, and Title VII, including the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The EEO laws do not interfere with or prevent employers from following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or other federal, state, and local public health authorities’ guidelines and suggestions.

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 June 2, 2021, there are more than 171 million global cases and more than 3.5 million global deaths, while the United States leads the world with more than 33 million cases and more than 594,000 deaths, according to research from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

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