What guidelines apply to vaccine incentives?
Vaccine incentives through employers are another option for promoting worker vaccinations. However, there are guidelines an employer must follow.
According to EEOC’s updated guidance, employers can offer an incentive of any kind when the employee receives the vaccine by a third party. A third party would be someone other than the employer or the employer’s agent. Examples of third parties would be pharmacies, healthcare providers and public healthcare departments.
When offering the incentive, the employer can require proof of vaccination. In doing so, the employer is not asking about physical disability.
When the employer or the employer’s agent offers the vaccine, certain limitations exist regarding the types of incentives the employer can offer. In contrast to a third party, an employer’s agent would be an onsite medical staff person. The staff person or nurse would be acting on behalf of the employer.
When the employer provides the vaccination through agents, the incentive cannot be “so substantial as to be coercive.”
What does “so substantial as to be coercive” mean?
This guideline relates to the EEOC’s wellness rules under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employers can offer wellness programs to employees, but the incentive shouldn’t be so large that it makes employees feel pressured to disclose private medical information. In relation to vaccinations, employees would provide medical information during the pre-screening process. The incentive can encourage the employee, but the employee should not feel forced or overly persuaded to get the vaccination.
Offering incentives to employees with valid reasons for not vaccinating
At the same time, the employer must offer the same types of incentives to workers who are unable to be vaccinated. These would be employees with disabilities or religious obligations preventing vaccination. Examples of accommodations for these employees might be providing an incentive if the employee watches a COVID-19 safety video. Or providing an incentive for reading CDC information about limiting the spread of covid in the workplace.
Seek Legal Advice from an Experienced Employment Law Attorney
With new guidelines emerging, it is difficult for employers to stay on top of the changing legal landscape. Stephen D. Hans & Associates, P.C. can provide you with experienced legal guidance. Call (718) 275-6500 to arrange an appointment