LIEB BLOG

Legal Media Analysts

Thursday, October 28, 2021

EEOC Provides Clarifications on Religious Exemptions to COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") recently released new guidance on religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine mandates. The new guidance provides clarifications regarding employers' and employees' obligations, including the following:

  • In requesting a religious accommodation, an employee must specify that there is a conflict between the vaccine requirement and their sincerely held religious beliefs.
  • If an employer has an objective basis to question either the "religious nature or the sincerity of a particular belief," the employer can seek additional supporting information from the employee regarding their religious beliefs.
  • Objections to COVID-19 vaccinations based on social, political or personal preferences do not qualify as sincerely held religious beliefs.
  • In assessing whether it can deny an accommodation request based on an undue hardship, an employer should consider factors such as whether the employee: works outdoors or indoors, works in a group setting, has close contact with other individuals, as well as the number of employees seeking a similar accommodation. 
  • The employer can choose its preferred accommodation that would resolve the employee's conflict even if it is not the accommodation requested by the employee. 
Since every request requires an individual assessment of the employee's religious beliefs and potential burden to the employer, employers should seek the advice of legal counsel prior to making a determination.



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