When does an employer need to provide a religious exemption from a vaccine mandate? I’m Amy E. Feldman.
Employers legally can mandate employees get a COVID-19 vaccine, but they do have to reasonably accommodate people who have a medical condition or a sincerely held religious belief that prevents them from getting one. Medical exemptions are pretty clear, you have a medical condition you don’t. Religious exemptions are less clear. While no major religion prohibits COVID vaccines, employers can’t limit a religious exemption only to organized, well-recognized religions. So, how does an employer judge if an employee is just using religion as an excuse?
In the past, the EEOC has told employers to consider things like whether the employee has acted in a way that is inconsistent with the claimed belief—like by getting other vaccines, or whether the employee is likely seeking an exception for nonreligious reasons. So yeah, not very helpful. Several recent lawsuits may soon provide court guidance, so until then, employers are praying they’re making the right call.