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EEOC: U.S. Companies Can Require Most Employees to Get COVID Vaccine

'If an employee cannot get vaccinated for COVID-19... then it would be lawful for the employer to exclude the employee from the workplace...'

A federal agency announced last week that employers can legally require employees to receive the coronavirus vaccine or be prohibited from entering the workplace.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidance on Wednesday saying that requiring workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine does not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits employers from requiring “medical examinations like blood tests, breath analyses and blood-pressure screening.”

“If a vaccine is administered to an employee by an employer for protection against contracting COVID-19, the employer is not seeking information about an individual’s impairments or current health status and, therefore, it is not a medical examination,” the EEOC said.

More specifically, employers are allowed to ensure a safe workplace in which “an individual shall not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of individuals in the workplace.” That can mean a company requiring its workforce to be vaccinated.

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However, questions asked before the vaccine’s administration could be considered as seeking medical information illegally, the EEOC explains.

“Although the administration of a vaccination is not a medical examination, pre-screening vaccination questions may implicate the ADA’s provision on disability-related inquiries, which are inquiries likely to elicit information about a disability,” it said.

“If the employer administers the vaccine, it must show that such pre-screening questions it asks employees are ‘job-related and consistent with business necessity.’”

Employees whose “religious belief, practice, or observance prevents” them from receiving the vaccine must be afforded a “reasonable accommodation” unless “it would pose an undue hardship under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act,” according to the guidance.

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“If an employee cannot get vaccinated for COVID-19 because of a disability or sincerely held religious belief, practice or observance, and there is no reasonable accommodation possible, then it would be lawful for the employer to exclude the employee from the workplace,” the EEOC said. “This does not mean the employer may automatically terminate the worker.”

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