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EEOC Addresses Religious Exception and the COVID-19 Vaccine

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently posted updated and expanded technical assistance related to the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing questions about religious objections to employer COVID-19 vaccine requirements and how they interact with federal equal employment (EEO) laws.

The expanded technical assistance provides new information about how Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies when an applicant or employee requests an exception from an employer’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement that conflicts with their sincerely held religious beliefs, practices, or observances. Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.

The update provides employers, employees, and applicants with important assistance when navigating vaccine-related religious accommodation requests.

The updates to the technical assistance include:

  • Employees and applicants must inform their employers if they seek an exception to an employer’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement due to a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance.
  • Title VII requires employers to consider requests for religious accommodations but does not protect social, political, or economic views, or personal preferences of employees who seek exceptions to a COVID-19 vaccination requirement.
  • Employers that demonstrate undue hardship are not required to accommodate an employee's request for religious accommodation. Undue hardship is defined by the EEOC as “an action requiring significant difficulty or expense.”

This technical assistance answers COVID-19 questions only from the perspective of the EEOC laws. Other federal, state, and local laws may come into play regarding the pandemic for employers, employees, and applicants.

Help is available

The attorneys at O’Reilly Rancilio are available to answer questions related to the EEOC, OSHA, and the COVID-19 pandemic and the law. For information, call 586-726-1000 or visit our website.

Categories: Covid 19

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