On October 25, 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued updated technical assistance guidance on religious objections/exemptions to mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirements by employers. You can read the updated technical assistance guidance at “section L.”
The key updates to the technical assistance are summarized below:
- 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, but employees and applicants and not required to
use specific language like “religious exemption.”
- Generally, under Title VII, employers should assume that a request for religious
accommodation is based on a sincerely held religious belief. If there is an
objective basis for questioning either the religious nature or the sincerity of a
particular belief, the employer would be justified in making a limited factual
inquiry and seeking additional supporting information.
- 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 a religious accommodation.
- Potential accommodations may include remote work or reassignment.
It is important to remember that it is unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee for requesting an accommodation based on a religious objection to vaccination.
The EEOC’s guidance answers COVID-19 questions only from the perspective of the EEO laws. Other federal, state, and local laws come into play regarding the COVID-19 pandemic for employers, employees, and applicants. Please let us know if you need assistance from the GAFFNEYLEWIS LLC employment law team regarding any COVID-19 questions, please reach out to us at (803) 790-8838.
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