On November 5, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a Temporary Emergency Standard (ETS). It required employers with 100 or more employees to institute mandates requiring employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 – or requiring weekly testing of their employees. On the same day, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) also issued an Interim Final Rule (IFR) requiring that the workforce of Medicare and Medicaid certified providers and providers be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order for Medicare and Medicaid facilities. to continue participating in these programs. Many employers have also instituted COVID-19 vaccination mandates for their separate OSHA ETS and CMS IFR employees.
Regardless of whether an employer follows the OSHA ETS, CMS IFR, or has instituted their own vaccination mandate, employers should be aware that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) – which protects employees based on their race, color, religion, gender and national origin – requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to employees for their sincere religious beliefs. Therefore, Title VII may require employers to provide religious exemptions from a vaccination warrant when it conflicts with the sincere religious beliefs of employees.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces Title VII, has issued technical assistance questions and answers to keep employers informed of how various workplace discrimination laws. jobs apply to COVID-19. The EEOC regularly updates its COVID-19 technical support.
An important technical support update took place on October 26, 2021. In this update, the EEOC clarified that social, political or economic opinions, as well as simple personal preferences, are not beliefs. religious subject to a religious exemption from COVID-19. vaccination warrants. This clarification is important because employer vaccination mandates have become very controversial and employees may claim that their personal, political or other non-religious beliefs exempt them from COVID-19 vaccination mandates. According to the EEOC’s Religious Accommodation Guidelines, a religious belief is “a belief that occupies a place in the life of its possessor parallel to that occupied by.” . . God. ”This can include“ non-theistic moral or ethical beliefs about what is right and wrong that are sincerely held with the force of traditional religious views. ”Religious beliefs generally relate to“ ultimate ideas ”about“ life, purpose and death. ”The religious character of a belief is determined on a case-by-case basis. However, the EEOC is clear that beliefs that are merely political, social, economic or personal are not considered protected religious beliefs .
If an employee has a purely political, social, economic or personal objection to the COVID-19 vaccine and the objection is unrelated to religion, then, according to the EEOC, the employee is not entitled to a religious exemption to COVID- 19 vaccination warrants under Title VII.
Employers should consult their labor and employment attorney when assessing an employee’s request for a COVID-19 vaccine warrant exemption.