Contractors, among other U.S. employers. can require all workers entering their offices or work sites to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said May 28 in a new guidance on its website.
The federal agency issued updated guidance on its website stating that federal law would not prevent an employer from mandated vaccination, even if some federal laws require the employer to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who, because of a health condition, disability or religious belief, do not get the vaccine.
EEOC said a reasonable accommodation for a non-vaccinated employee entering a jobsite might be to wear a face mask, work at a 6-ft social distance or, for eligible office employees, are allowed to telecommute.
The new guidelines also state that federal laws do not prevent or limit incentives provided by employers administering vaccines at office or jobsite events, so long as they are not coercive.
Many contractors have held vaccination events and sought clarity after changed guidance on May 21 from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which said that contractors and other employers should not record adverse reactions to COVID-19 vaccinations in their safety logs until at least May 2022. The new EEOC guidance would, seemingly, bring instructions to employers from the two agencies more into alignment.
"The updated technical assistance released today addresses frequently asked questions concerning vaccinations in the employment context,” said EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows in a statement. The agency "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 new guidance reads: "Federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19, so long as employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the [Americans with Disabilities Act] and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other EEO considerations."
Construction trade groups did not immediately respond to the change in guidance, announced June 1 after the long holiday weekend. Contractor and design-builder Clayco Inc. said it is still internally assessing legal issues surrounding vaccination while strongly encouraging it for all employees.
"We are talking to some of our clients about issuing a mandatory vaccine policy on jobsites," says Bob Clark, the Chicago firm's founder and executive chairman. "We think that could be very influential."
Clark added that he believes the company's Chicago base is near herd immunity—when a large portion of a community becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of COVID-19 from person to person unlikely there.