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Business Groups Seek Vaccine Incentive Guidance From EEOC

Feb. 2, 2021, 3:21 PM

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission should clarify what kinds of incentives employers can legally offer workers to encourage Covid-19 vaccinations, according to a letter signed by more than 40 business groups.

The groups requested in a Monday letter for the workplace civil rights agency to weigh in on incentives, as employers like JBS USA and Aldi offer financial perks like extra pay and bonuses to workers who get vaccinated.

“Legal uncertainty about providing such incentives, however, has many employers concerned over liability and has made them hesitant to act,” the groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the International Franchise Association, and the National Restaurant Association, said in the letter addressed to Democratic EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows. “To ensure the guidance is as effective and efficient as possible, we also encourage the EEOC to define what qualifies as a permissible incentive as broadly as possible.”

The EEOC enforces federal anti-discrimination laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, which could limit the incentives companies can offer, according to the letter. Incentives offered by employers to encourage participation in workplace wellness programs, for example, “have been closely scrutinized over the years and are the subject of recent regulations,” the letter stated.

In its most recent set of proposed rules to regulate wellness program incentives, the agency said employers may offer a gift card of “modest value” or a water bottle, for example. Unveiled earlier this month, those measures didn’t address pandemic-specific topics such as inoculation and it’s unclear whether wellness program regulations would apply to vaccinations.

Aldi is offering to cover vaccine-associated costs and up to four hours of pay per employee, and JBS USAis offering a $100 incentive bonus to any worker who receives a vaccine.

The EEOC, which has published guidance for employers and workers throughout the global pandemic, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on its stance on the incentives.

To contact the reporter on this story: Paige Smith in Washington at psmith@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com; Andrew Harris at aharris@bloomberglaw.com

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