On May 28, 2021, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its COVID-19 vaccine guidance. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the rate of vaccination and gradual reopening of the economy have become a source of hope for the country and a welcome change for employers. As employers welcome workers back to the office, they are met with an array of new and untested queries on federal equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws. The EEOC’s updated guidance answers some of these questions.

Vaccine Programs

Many employers are actively considering whether vaccines should be mandatory or voluntary for their workforces. The EEOC confirmed in its updated guidance that, from its perspective, employers may require that all employees physically entering a workplace be vaccinated for COVID-19. Employers who generally require vaccines must still allow either exemptions from their vaccination policy or reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities or certain religious beliefs. More commonly, COVID-19 vaccination has been made a voluntary act by employers rather than a mandated one. However, at least some employers have adopted mandatory vaccination programs.