Earlier this week, on August 23, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Earlier this year, many employers were hesitant to issue vaccine mandates and expressed concerns about potential legal risks associated with such a mandate since the COVID-19 vaccines were only approved for emergency use. While the full approval designation may not change the legal landscape as it relates to vaccine mandates, many employers may feel more comfortable imposing such mandates.
As explained in our prior blog, employers can mandate employee vaccinations under federal law. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance several months ago stating that employers generally can mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for employees who physically enter the workplace without running afoul of the federal anti-discrimination laws it enforces. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) also issued a slip opinion on July 6, 2021, regarding vaccination mandates and the emergency use authorization status of the vaccines:
We conclude that section 564(e)(1)(A)(ii)(III) concerns only the provision of information to potential vaccine recipients and does not prohibit public or private entities from imposing vaccination requirements for vaccines that are subject to EUAs.Continue reading →
Here is a summary of the vaccine section of the guidance:
May employers ask employees about vaccination status under federal law? See FAQs K9, K5, K15, K16, K18, K19
Yes – does not violate ADA or GINA.
However, employer should not ask “why” an employee is unvaccinated, as this could compel the employee to reveal disability information that is protected under the ADA and/or GINA.
Recommended practice: If employer requires documentation or other confirmation of vaccination, “notify all employees that the employer will consider requests for reasonable accommodation based on disability on an individualized basis.”
Is vaccination information “confidential” under the ADA? See FAQ K4
Yes, this includes documentation (i.e., the white vaccination card) or “other confirmation” of vaccination, which we presume means any self-attestation form or email from the employee, as well as any record, matrix, spreadsheet, or checklist created by the employer after viewing employees’ vaccination cards or receiving a verbal confirmations from employees.
The records or information must be kept confidential and stored separately from employee personnel files.
How may employers encourage employees and family members to get vaccinated? See FAQ K3Continue reading →
As the number of vaccinated individuals continues to increase and we are seeing a significant decrease in COVID-19 cases, the landscape of legal requirements applicable to employers and employees is changing, particularly related to employees who are fully vaccinated. Indeed, in an unexpected update to its guidance last week, the CDC stated that fully vaccinated individuals may resume essentially all indoor and outdoor pre-pandemic activities in almost all circumstances. Although federal agencies such as OSHA and the EEOC have not yet updated their relevant guidance on treatment of vaccinated workers to reflect these changes, they both have stated their intent to address, and in OSHA’s case follow, the CDC guidance, and many states are doing the same.
Accordingly, employers now, more than ever, must understand and may want to take certain actions based on the vaccination status of their workers. However, obtaining information on an employee’s status and using that information to dictate policies and practices in the work environment has legal implications and raises many important questions that could pose difficulties for employers who want to ensure that they proceed in compliance with applicable laws. Below, we provide answers to questions we have received related to employee vaccination status as well as tips to effectively deal with these novel and complex issues.
Question 1: Can employers ask employees about their COVID-19 vaccination status?
Yes, but employers should be mindful of compliance with federal and state laws on disability, privacy and discrimination. If the employer requests confirmation and/or proof that an employee has been fully vaccinated, this should be a simple, straightforward inquiry to determine an employee’s current vaccination status. Such a simple, general inquiry is legitimate and would be considered permissible under applicable employment laws, particularly if it is made to determine whether: Continue reading →
This complimentary program will feature panel discussions with representatives from EEOC, NLRB, and OSHA addressing key policy trends and regulatory developments. They will be joined by senior corporate counsel from multinational corporations and Conn Maciel Carey’s Labor & Employment and OSHA specialist attorneys. There will also be moderated breakout roundtable sessions covering issues of concern to various industry segments.
1:00 PM – Registration and Networking
1:30 PM – OSHA Panel
Angie Loftus (OSHA Area Director – Chicago North Area Office)
In the last few months, hardly a day has gone by without some news regarding transgender bathroom access. Perhaps the catalyst for the increased attention on this issue was North Carolina’s passage of its controversial H.B. 2 law which, among other things, restricts transgender people’s access to public restrooms and blocks local governments from passing anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBT individuals.
As a byproduct of the increasing visibility of this issue, both the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) have strongly supported transgender rights. Indeed, last year, OSHA promulgated its “Transgender Restroom Access Guide” with the core Principle that all employees, including transgender employees, should have access to restrooms that correspond to their gender identity. OSHA linked this to safety and health by reasoning that: