Companies are requiring employees to be vaccinated with the stated purpose of wanting to protect other employees, customers and visitors. Employees are being made to choose between getting vaccinated or possibly losing their jobs.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has stepped in and identified two possible legal reasons an employee can claim in order to successfully challenge the mandate to be vaccinated. These are because of a disability (including pregnancy) or a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance. In these instances, the employee needs to request a reasonable accommodation which the employer should approve unless they successfully contend that to provide such a requested accommodation would work an undue hardship on the employer. For more information on the EEOC’s guidance: https://www.eeoc.gov/wysk/what-you-should-know-about-covid-19-and-ada-rehabilitation-act-and-other-eeo-laws
The following examples of possible reasonable accommodations for an unvaccinated employee entering the workplace include wearing a face mask, work at a social distance from coworkers or non-employees, work a modified shift, get periodic tests for COVID-19, be given the opportunity to telework, or finally, accept a reassignment.
Employees who believe that their legal rights have been violated such as having their employment terminated despite having requested a reasonable accommodation because of a disability or religious belief may file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, a mandatory initial step that is required before a federal lawsuit can be initiated. In general, such a charge has to be filed within 180 calendar days from the day the alleged discrimination took place.
The above is just a snapshot view of a very complex and heatedly argued issue. If you believe your rights have been violated, contact Martin & Martin.