EEOC releases expanded technical assistance addressing EEO laws, COVID-19 vaccines

Washington — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released updated guidance May 28 addressing concerns about federal equal employment opportunity laws and COVID-19.

The expanded EEOC technical assistance says that employers are not prevented from requiring workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 provided they comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the American Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, according to a news release.

The updated guidance also said federal equal employment opportunity laws don’t “prevent or limit employers” from offering incentives to employees to voluntarily provide documentation of vaccination.

In February, the ADA and more than 40 stakeholders sent a letter to the commission asking it to issue guidance regarding employer-provided incentives and the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The updated technical assistance released today addresses frequently asked questions concerning vaccinations in the employment context,” said Charlotte A. Burrows, EEOC chair. “The EEOC will continue to clarify and update our COVID-19 technical assistance to ensure that we are providing the public with clear, easy to understand and helpful information. We will continue to address the issues that were raised at the commission’s recent hearing on the civil rights impact of COVID-19.”

Other key takeaways from the updated EEOC guidance include:

  • While federal equal employment opportunity laws don’t prevent employers from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19” the Commission did advise employers to consider that because some individuals “may face greater barriers to receiving a COVID-19 vaccination than others, some employees may be more likely to be negatively impacted by a vaccination requirement.” Other laws, not in EEOC’s jurisdiction, may place additional restrictions on employers.
  • If employers choose to obtain vaccination information from their employees, the employers “must keep vaccination information confidential pursuant to the American Disabilities Act.”
  • Regarding employers who are administering vaccines to employees, the commission noted that “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.”
  • 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.

To read the technical assistance in full, visit the EEOC website.

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