Mandating COVID-19 Vaccines in the Workplace: EEOC Issues Updated Guidance

Perhaps the most-asked question by employers these days is: Can a COVID-19 vaccine be required of employees? The answer is generally yes, with some important qualifications.

Following the approval of COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use and subsequent distribution to the states, the EEOC issued supplemental COVID-19 guidance on December 16 to address circumstances to consider when mandating COVID-19 vaccination, once the vaccine becomes widely available. The guidance addresses practical, compliance-related questions, including whether the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine constitutes a “medical examination” and whether asking medical screening questions prior to administering the vaccine, or requiring proof of vaccination, constitutes a “disability-related inquiry”—both of which are subject to restrictions under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The EEOC’s revised “What You Should Know” now includes a section devoted to the COVID-19 vaccine at work, and outlines the steps an employer should take to ensure compliance with its legal obligations under federal workplace discrimination laws, including the ADA, Title VII, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).

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