The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance to employers for religious accommodation requests from employees regarding mandatory vaccines, specifically the upcoming COVID-19 vaccination mandate. Employers should not only anticipate these requests, but prepare a preemptive plan to address them.
The EEOC established that employers should assume religious accommodation requests “are based on sincerely held religious beliefs,” but are also justified in seeking an explanation of how the vaccine requirement conflicts with an employee’s religious beliefs. Workers will need to notify employers of such conflict. Employers may deny the request if they can demonstrate the accommodation would cause undue hardship. Hardships can fall under financial stress or disruption due to the accommodation.
Employers also have the right to grant religious accommodations at their discretion, meaning that granting an accommodation for one employee does not mean the employer is obligated to grant accommodations for all employees. An employer can retract a granted accommodation if the accommodation is no longer being utilized under religious purposes or begins to pose an undue hardship.
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