Employers will need to assess pandemic and workplace circumstances in order to justify mandatory COVID-19 testing of employees going forward, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced in a July 12 guidance update.
Job-Related and Necessary
The EEOC said employers must show that coronavirus testing is job-related and consistent with business necessity, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Until now, worksite COVID-19 testing was permitted without any required justification or assessment.
The agency provided several possible factors to consider when making an assessment, including:
- The level of community transmission.
- The vaccination status of employees.
- The degree of breakthrough infections of vaccinated workers.
- The transmissibility of current variants.
- The possible severity of illness from a current variant.
- Contacts employees may have with others during the course of their work.
- The potential impact on operations if an employee enters the workplace with COVID-19.
“This change is not meant to suggest that such testing is or is not warranted,” the EEOC said. “Rather, the revised [guidance] acknowledges that evolving pandemic circumstances will require an individualized assessment by employers to determine whether such testing is warranted.” (U.S. EEOC)
EEOC Continues to Update COVID-19-Related Guidance
Throughout the pandemic, the EEOC has answered key employer questions and provided guidance about the evolving COVID-19-related issues employers face. EEOC Vice Chair Jocelyn Samuels and Commissioner Andrea R. Lucas spoke at the SHRM Employment Law & Compliance Conference 2022 in March to keep attendees up-to-date.
When Workers Refuse a COVID-19 Vaccination
The EEOC allows workplace vaccination mandates when they are job-related and consistent with business necessity. Employers must consider reasonable accommodations when employees refuse to get vaccinated for medical reasons, including pregnancy-related reasons, or based on sincerely held religious beliefs, unless an accommodation would cause undue hardship for the business.
Handling Religious Objections to Workplace Vaccine Mandates
Employers generally must explore reasonable accommodations for employees who refuse to get vaccinated against the coronavirus based on a sincerely held religious belief—but objections based on personal or political views are not protected under federal anti-discrimination laws.
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reprinted in part with permission 07.2022