Religious Objections to Vaccine Mandates: EEOC Issues New Guidance

Final week, the EEOC issued new guidance on how to apply anti-discrimination legal guidelines to an applicant or worker’s request for a spiritual exemption from an employer’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement.

Background: Title VII and Faith

The EEOC has beforehand defined that vaccine mandates are usually permissible, so long as there are exceptions offered for incapacity and spiritual causes.  Incapacity-related objections are ruled by the People with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) whereas spiritual objections are ruled by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”).  The EEOC indicated that it was offering up to date steering as a result of it expects the variety of employers with vaccine necessities will enhance within the coming months.

Title VII usually requires employers to present lodging for workers’ spiritual beliefs or practices that battle with work necessities as long as these beliefs or practices don’t pose an undue hardship to the employer.

Sincerity of Religious Beliefs

An worker who wishes a spiritual lodging should exhibit that his or her spiritual perception is “sincerely held.”  That is the primary level of emphasis within the EEOC’s new steering.  The EEOC makes clear that Title VII “does not protect social, political, or economic views, or personal preferences.”  Due to this fact, “objections to COVID-19 vaccination that are based on social, political, or personal preferences, or on nonreligious concerns about the possible effects of the vaccine, do not qualify as ‘religious beliefs’ under Title VII.”

Assuming the professed perception just isn’t solely and clearly grounded in social, political or different nonreligious considerations, the employer “should ordinarily assume” that an worker’s spiritual perception is sincerely held.  That stated, employers might query “either the religious nature or the sincerity of a particular belief, practice, or observance” if there are “facts that provide an objective basis” for doing so.  Examples of such eventualities, the EEOC defined, embrace the next:

  • whether or not the worker has acted in a way inconsistent with the professed perception (though staff needn’t be scrupulous of their observance);

  • whether or not the lodging sought is a very fascinating profit that’s seemingly to be searched for nonreligious causes;

  • whether or not the timing of the request renders it suspect (e.g., it follows an earlier request by the worker for a similar profit for secular causes);

  • and whether or not the employer in any other case has cause to consider the lodging just isn’t searched for spiritual causes.

In inspecting the sincerity of an worker’s spiritual perception, the EEOC stresses that nobody issue is determinative and instructs employers to consider spiritual objections on a person foundation.  Simply because one worker is granted a spiritual lodging doesn’t imply that an employer should grant all related requests.

Figuring out Undue Hardship within the Period of COVID-19

Even when an worker’s perception is sincerely held, an employer might deny lodging if, after contemplating all attainable options, the lodging would pose an “undue hardship” to the employer.

Employers could also be accustomed to the undue hardship normal within the context of ADA incapacity lodging claims.  Regardless of the identical verbiage, Title VII employs a distinct normal.  To exhibit undue hardship below Title VII, the requested lodging want solely bear greater than a “de minimis,” or a minimal, value to the employer.  These prices will be financial or non-monetary.

With regard to attainable undue hardships offered by COVID-19, the EEOC defined that the next issues could also be related:  whether or not the worker requesting a spiritual lodging works outside or indoors, works in a solitary or group work setting, or has shut contact with different staff or members of the general public (particularly medically weak people).  One other consideration would be the variety of staff who’re in search of an analogous lodging (i.e., the cumulative value or burden on the employer).

If a proposed spiritual lodging would impair office security, diminish effectivity in different jobs, or trigger coworkers to carry the accommodated worker’s share of probably hazardous or burdensome work, an employer might give you the chance to exhibit that it isn’t required to accommodate the worker’s request.

Conclusion

The EEOC acknowledges the troublesome questions which can be posed by a spiritual objection to a vaccine mandate.  Consequently, the company offered up to date steering and even took the uncommon step of together with within the steering the EEOC’s personal type that it’ll make the most of to deal with spiritual lodging requests inside the company.  A replica of that type will be discovered here.

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