Businesses can require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 without violating federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission laws, the agency says.
Businesses can also offer incentives to employees to get vaccinated or to provide documentation of vaccination “as long as the incentives are not coercive,” the EEOC said in a news release Friday.
The updated EEOC guidance indicates employers must make “reasonable accommodations” for employees who don’t get vaccinated because of a disability, religious beliefs or pregnancy.
The agency also noted that other federal, state and local laws may come into play.
“The updated technical assistance released today addresses frequently asked questions concerning vaccinations in the employment context,” EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows said in a statement. “The EEOC will continue to clarify and update our COVID-19 technical assistance to ensure that we are providing the public with clear, easy to understand, and helpful information.”
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The Fourth Amendment doesn’t prevent businesses from asking about COVID vaccine status either
Legal experts say federal laws don’t block businesses from asking customers or employees about their vaccine status, despite social media posts claiming the opposite.
Posts circulating widely on Instagram this month cited excerpts of the Fourth Amendment and the 1964 Civil Rights Act to falsely claim that a business asking for proof of vaccination or denying entry based on vaccination status is a “violation of your privacy and property rights” protected by federal law.
The posts claimed the Fourth Amendment protects individuals against businesses asking about vaccines because it protects “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”
However, legal experts say that amendment refers specifically to searches and seizures by the government, not by private entities.
“The Fourth Amendment only applies to governmental searches and seizures and certainly not to businesses asking for proof of vaccination,” said Lawrence Gostin, a law professor at Georgetown University who specializes in public health law.
Contributing: Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Can employers require a COVID vaccine? Federal agency says yes, and they can offer incentives, too