President Biden recently announced several initiatives to help the country recover from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. One of those initiatives, “Vaccinating the Unvaccinated,” will implement vaccine requirements that will cover 80 million employees.
These new rules will extend vaccine mandates to federal workers and federal contractors and subcontractors. In addition, employees of private employers with 100+ employees will either have to be vaccinated or be tested weekly. These employers will also need to provide paid time off for their employees to get vaccinated and to recover from any side effects of the vaccines.
OSHA is expected to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to provide guidance to affected employers in implementing the new vaccine mandate. While there is no guidance yet, you can find the most current information from OSHA here.
Accommodations: Conversations about vaccine mandates trigger questions about reasonable accommodations. The EEOC has offered many FAQs around COVID-19 in the workplace which can be found at EEOC: COVID-19. The EEOC clarified that employers mandating vaccination of employees must offer reasonable accommodation due to an employee’s disability (ADA) or sincerely-held religious belief (Title VII).
Employers must be consistent in their consideration of accommodations for all employees, but every employee’s case should be assessed individually using factors such as the reason for the need and the accommodations needed as well as their job duties and impacts of the accommodation on the company and other co-workers.
Under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), people who have a disability that prevents them from receiving the vaccine should be offered a reasonable accommodation. While most people with health issues are encouraged to get vaccinated, there are some medical conditions that may make obtaining a vaccine unsafe.
In addition, under Title VII, employees cannot be required to get a vaccine if it violates their religious belief, practice, observance, or their sincerely held belief. As with medical requests, employers should evaluate each accommodation request.
If employees have vaccine hesitancy, you can refer them to some resources such as the CDC, UCLA, and Nebraska Medicine.
Questions about how to handle medical or religious accommodations requests? We can help! Affinity HR Group provides guidance on vaccine mandates, accommodations, & many other COVID-19 workplace challenges. Reach out to us at Affinity HR Group at 877-660-6400 or contact@AffinityHRGroup.com.
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