As much as we would all like to see masks and COVID guidance to become a distant memory, we aren’t quite there yet. Our friendly neighborhood compliance pals at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) remain hard at work keeping us informed on the ever-changing world of how to navigate COVID-19 in the workplace. Since we all have places to go and people to see – hopefully seeing their whole faces if they are fully vaccinated – I am going to give you a “cheat sheet” version, but also the link to the full publication for those who might be quarantined and looking for in-depth reading material.
Here is the link to see the full set of Technical Assistance, complete with originating dates, updated dates, and dates of the newly provided guidance. You will need to scroll a bit to get to the new stuff, which starts at Section K. Vaccinations.
Here are some highlights to spark your interest.
K.1. Employers CAN require all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated. However, note that it is subject to the reasonable accommodation provisions mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Remember that there may be situations like a disability or a religious belief that the employer must take into consideration. Hint: sections K12 and 13 are super helpful.
K.3. Since May of 2021, the U.S. federal government has made free vaccines available to everyone ages 12 and older. Employers have options to encourage employees and their families to be vaccinated but should be sure to follow the guidance on how to stay compliant with the EEO laws under the ADA and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).
K.4. Don’t forget that any information about vaccinations is an employee’s medical information and subject to confidentiality.
K.8-11. I found this section particularly interesting, as it covers Voluntary Employer Vaccination Programs and provides guidance to determine whether or not inquiries are “disability-related”. It can feel a bit dicey sometimes, and having that direction is important.
K.14-15. If you read the original Technical Assistance documentation back in 2020, you’re already aware of this, but for those who have had other things on your mind, it is important to know that GINA is another requirement you must adhere to when managing COVID-19 and vaccinations. Just to be sure, here is a checklist of questions provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help employers remain compliant with GINA guardrails.
To get more employees back to work, employers have made it no secret that they are willing to incentivize voluntary vaccinations. This is a good thing, provided that they don’t make those incentives contingent on information that would be a violation of GINA. In addition to the checklist provided above, sections K. 18-21 will help to navigate this process.
There you have it:–the abridged version of the Technical Assistance updates. I highly encourage you to take a moment to review the updates more thoroughly and possibly freshen your memory on the other guidance. A short preview now could save you from a lengthier and less enjoyable conversation later.
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ReedGroup continuously tracks and analyzes current and pending leave and accommodation legislation to determine potential impacts to our customers. In addition, ReedGroup monitors guidance from agencies such as the Department of Labor and EEOC and incorporates that guidance into our administration when appropriate.
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Information provided on this blog is intended for general educational use. It is not intended to provide legal advice. ReedGroup does not provide legal services. Consult an attorney for legal advice on this or any other topic.