As the COVID-19 vaccine has become increasingly available, and with some employers now mandating employees to be vaccinated, employees have become increasingly anxious to understand their rights in this regard.
Though recent guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission allows employers to require employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine before returning to the office, employees still have important protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Exceptions to COVID Vaccine Mandates
Employees who cannot receive the vaccine due to disability or because of religious-related concerns may request a reasonable accommodation from their employer. In both situations, the employer must provide a reasonable accommodation absent an undue hardship on the employer.
If you are requesting an accommodation due to an ADA-qualifying disability, you should know that your employer will be permitted to ask about the nature of your disability and its relationship to your refusal to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Also, your employer can request documentation to support your need for an accommodation. But know that you also have protections against vaccine screening questions, especially where such questions may elicit answers about your disability. These questions are only allowed if they are truly “job related”.
Similarly, if you are requesting a reasonable accommodation due to a sincerely held religious belief, employers may be allowed to seek information about your religious belief, including third party verifications.
Legal Protection for Non-Vaccinated Employees
If you refuse to get a vaccine and are an individual with a disability or sincerely held religious belief, an employer may not exclude you from the workplace, or take any other adverse action, unless an employer can prove that there is no way to provide a reasonable accommodation without undue hardship. And if you are an employee who requests a reasonable accommodation due to a disability or a sincerely held religious belief, you are protected from retaliation. So, even if your accommodation is denied, you may still be protected from adverse employment action, including termination.
If you believe you have suffered from discrimination or retaliation due to a request for a reasonable accommodation or because you are a member of a protected class and want to learn more about your rights, contact an attorney for further advice on your potential claim.
Our attorneys are always available to hear your story and answer any other questions you may have.
Call us at 859-431-3333 to speak with an attorney or to schedule an appointment.