On August 30, 2021, Doreen Martin was quoted in Law360 on the interplay between religious accommodation requests and COVID-19 vaccines as the highly contagious Delta variant leads employers to reconsider whether they should require workers to get vaccinated as a condition of working on-site.
According to the article, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has published several tranches of guidelines outlining how employers should handle things like accommodation requests in the context of vaccines. The agency has clarified that employers can require workers to be inoculated against COVID-19 to enter a worksite, provided they make medical and religious accommodations available and that any accommodations don't impose an "undue hardship" on the business.
Navigating religious accommodation requests can be especially difficult, given the broad definition of religion under civil rights law and how infrequently human resources professionals have dealt with such requests before COVID-19 came along.
"Up until COVID, these religious exemption requests really were not as frequent because there weren't these mandatory vaccinations where these issues would arise," said Martin. "If the employer has looked to consider the laws and the current guidance from the EEOC, these religious exemption requests do not have to be difficult. They should be processed the same way that disability requests or medical exemption requests are handled."
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