Across the United States, COVID-19 restrictions are lifting and doses of COVID-19 vaccines are available for practically every adult. Such developments mean employers that have sent their workforces home to telework can begin to plan an office reopening. Every company is different, but your business may have considered offering incentives to employees who get vaccinated or even hosting an in-house clinic as we transition back to life as we knew it.
Last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a long-awaited FAQ about such employer initiatives that clarified what behavior was compliant with employee protections like the American Disabilities Act, Title VII and GINA.
According to the EEOC FAQ released on May 28, employers may:
- Require employees who will be physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated as long as certain requirements are met (If employers institute mandatory vaccination programs, they must provide reasonable accommodations for individuals who refuse the vaccine due to a disability, pregnancy, or religion).
- Offer to provide vaccinations to employees on a voluntary basis
- Offer incentives for employees to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, as long as the incentives are not coercive
- Offer to provide vaccinations to employees’ family members on a voluntary basis (but may not require or provide incentives for family members’ vaccinations)
This EEOC FAQ answered several long-held questions about allowed employer actions. Though we are all eager to return to in-person work and mandating vaccines may seem like the best approach to creating a safe workplace, Katz/Pierz encourages every business to read the below PDF for more direction on how best to welcome employees back into the office.