NFDA Endorsed Provider, SESCO Management Consultants, provided information on updated guidance on religious objections to workplace vaccine mandates (see below).
As a benefit of membership, NFDA members can call the SESCO Human Resources Hotline with questions; click here for more information about SESCO and to call the hotline.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has posted updated guidance addressing questions about religious objections to employer COVID-19 vaccine requirements and how they interact with federal equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws.
The guidance 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. Title VII requires employers to accommodate employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs, absent undue hardship.
The key updates 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.
- 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.
- Under Title VII, an employer should thoroughly consider all possible reasonable accommodations, including testing, face coverings, reassignment, unpaid leave, etc.
Courts have found undue hardship where, for example, the religious accommodation would impair workplace safety, diminish efficiency in other jobs, or cause coworkers to carry the accommodated employee’s share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work. An employer will need to assess undue hardship by considering the particular facts of each situation and will need to demonstrate how much cost or disruption the employee’s proposed accommodation would involve. Relevant considerations include, for example, whether the employee requesting a religious accommodation to a COVID-19 vaccination requirement works outdoors or indoors, works in a solitary or group work setting, or has close contact with other employees or members of the public, another relevant consideration is the number of employees who are seeking a similar accommodation (i.e., the cumulative cost or burden on the employer).