Businesses Need Vaccine Exemption Guidance, Group Tells EEOC (1)

Oct. 25, 2021, 4:42 PMUpdated: Oct. 25, 2021, 8:42 PM

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission should clarify how workers may qualify for medical and religious exemptions from Covid-19 vaccine mandates and what reasonable accommodations would look like, a business group that represents Fortune 500 companies said in a letter to the agency.

The HR Policy Association’s Oct. 21 letter, released Monday, called on the EEOC to issue guidance that would also address recordkeeping and privacy concerns related to workplace anti-discrimination laws and the process of reviewing and storing worker vaccination records.

“Our members that have already instituted vaccine requirements are receiving thousands of exemption requests and would benefit enormously from additional guidance from the EEOC on these issues, including suggested templates for the interactive processes associated with such exemptions,” Timothy Bartl and Roger King, HR Policy Association executives, said in the letter, which was addressed to five leaders of the workplace civil rights agency.

President Joe Biden announced in September that federal contractor employees and government workers must receive a vaccination against Covid-19. He also tasked the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration with developing a rule that would require all U.S. businesses with 100 or more workers to mandate vaccines or compel regular testing. The OSHA regulation is close to being issued and could affect millions of private-sector U.S. workers.

VIDEO: President Biden’s vaccine mandate rule for companies, the likely legal challenges and what to expect next.

The HR Policy Association met with the White House earlier this month to discuss the OSHA emergency temporary standard.

“Although HR Policy and its members are taking significant steps towards achieving the Biden administration’s vaccination goals, the vaccine mandates for federal contractors and the forthcoming Emergency Temporary Standard for larger private sector employers raise significant compliance questions,” the letter stated.

The EEOC issued some guidance Monday addressing religious exemptions to vaccine mandates, including that anti-bias laws don’t protect workers who are seeking an exemption for political, social, or economic reasons. The EEOC didn’t respond to a question about whether the agency would answer the HR Policy Association letter.

(Updated with EEOC guidance issued Monday in seventh paragraph.)

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com

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