The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has updated guidance regarding religious objections to employer COVID-19 vaccination requirements relating to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Key points are:
- Title VII does not require exempting employees from vaccine requirements for their political, social, or economic reasons, which are not “religious beliefs.'
- However, an employer should assume that a religious belief is sincerely held, unless there is an “objective basis” for questioning either the religious nature or sincerity of the belief.
- An employer is not required to accommodate an employee if it is an "undue hardship" to do so. For example, as a reasonable accommodation, an unvaccinated employee entering the workplace might wear 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.
- Although an assumption that many more employees may seek a religious accommodation in the future is not evidence of an undue hardship, the EEOC recognizes that an employer may need to “take into account the cumulative cost or burden of granting accommodations” to many other employees.
- Employers can help reduce the chance of harassment by expressly communicating to the workforce that resentment about the pandemic restrictions should not be misdirected against individuals because of their religious beliefs.
EANJ COVID Resource page here