Answering Questions about Mask Policies and Vaccination Mandates

June 2, 2021

By: Erin S. Torcello and Rebecca K. Kimura

As a bonus to Bond’s June 1 webinar about the evolving legal implications of COVID-19 for business, Bond labor and employment attorneys Erin S. Torcello and Rebecca K. Kimura each recorded a short video to answer some frequently asked questions.

In her video, Erin encouraged employers to take their time in devising workplace masking requirements that take into account the needs of various stakeholders, including employees, customers and visitors. Consider involving employees in the conversation by soliciting their opinions about mask-wearing at work. Once a policy has been drafted and introduced, businesses then should set the expectation among employees and visitors that the policy could change as circumstance or government guidance evolves. 

In her video, Rebecca discussed the updated guidance issued May 28 by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) about vaccinations in the employment context. Key takeaways were: 

  • employers can require employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19 as a condition for entering the workplace, as long as they provide reasonable accommodation for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or religious reasons. 
  • employers should assume employees who request a religious exemption from a vaccine requirement are basing their requests on sincerely held religious beliefs or practice. 
  • an employee’s COVID vaccination status is considered confidential information under the Americans with Disabilities Act and must be maintained separately in an employee’s personnel file. 
  • employers may offer incentives to employees for receiving the vaccine if the inoculations are voluntary and the incentives aren’t so substantial that they’re coercive. Employers also can provide employees with incentives to provide documentation of their vaccination status if they received their shots from a third-party provider, such as a pharmacy, personal healthcare provider or public clinic.

The full presentation covered the following topics:

  • Updated EEOC Guidance on COVID-19 Including Vaccination Issues
  • Masking Requirements for Employees, Visitors, etc.
  • Update from Albany
  • From the Viewer E-mail "Bag"

Click here to view the webinar in its entirety or to register for upcoming Tuesday presentations.