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EEOC says employers can require vaccines

The new guidance won’t conflict with Alabama law, which carved out an exception for employers.

(STOCK)

Businesses are allowed to require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to new guidance issued last week by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

According to the guidance issued by the EEOC, employers can require the coronavirus vaccine without violating commission laws, but they must “make reasonable accommodations” for employees who refuse the vaccine because they’re pregnant, hold various religious beliefs or have a disability. The agency also said state and local laws might also come into play. 

The new guidance will not conflict with Alabama laws, however. While lawmakers passed a ban on vaccine passports in the recently completed legislative session, and that bill was signed by Gov. Kay Ivey, it specifically stated that employers were not prohibited from requiring that employees get the vaccine. 

Two bills that would have prevented employers from requiring the vaccine — from Republican Reps. Chip Brown and Charlotte Meadows — failed to gain traction. Neither made it on even a committee agenda. 

The EEOC also said that employers may offer employees incentives for getting the vaccine, so long as those incentives are not “coercive.” 

“The updated technical assistance released (last week) addresses frequently asked questions concerning vaccinations in the employment context,” said EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows in a statement. “The EEOC will continue to clarify and update our COVID-19 technical assistance to ensure that we are providing the public with clear, easy to understand, and helpful information. We will continue to address the issues that were raised at the Commission’s recent hearing on the civil rights impact of COVID-19.” 

The updated guidance also requires employers to keep vaccine status of employees private.

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Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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