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Vaccine Incentive Advice for Employers Coming: EEOC Attorney (1)

April 15, 2021, 11:01 PM; Updated: April 16, 2021, 4:20 PM

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will address the legal gray area of employers offering Covid-19 vaccination incentives, after lawmakers and employer groups requested the workplace civil rights agency weigh in.

“The agency expects to update its technical assistance about COVID-19 to address these issues, among others, and that work is ongoing,” Carol Miaskoff, the EEOC’s acting legal counsel, said in a letter addressed to employer groups including the Chamber of Commerce, the International Franchise Association, and others, and obtained by Bloomberg Law Thursday.

Employers across the country have offered incentives, from paid time off to cash bonuses, to encourage workers to receive a vaccine. But the agency hasn’t yet addressed whether those incentives could violate federal anti-bias law.

The employer groups pointed out in their February request to the EEOC that “wellness incentives have been closely scrutinized over the years,” and asked that any agency guidance “define what qualifies as a permissible incentive as broadly as possible.”

“Legal uncertainty about providing such incentives, however, has many employers concerned over liability and has made them hesitant to act,” the letter said.

The EEOC has been addressing questions related to Covid-19 in technical assistance guidance, said agency spokesperson Christine Saah Nazer.

Throughout the pandemic, the “EEOC has recognized the importance of addressing COVID-19 related matters raised by employers and workers through its technical assistance publication,” she said in an email. “We don’t have any new announcements today.”

(Updated with EEOC comment in sixth and seventh paragraphs. Story originally published on April 15.)

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com; Travis Tritten at ttritten@bgov.com

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