Important EEOC, DOL, and DOJ Guidance Updates
EEOC - Updated Guidance on Religious Exemptions & COVID Vaccine Requirements:
On March 1, 2022, the EEOC updated its guidance on religious exemptions for COVID vaccine requirements. Read their in-depth answers and guidance by clicking here. The EEOC suggests that employers consider implementing the following process:
Notify Employees: Inform employees and supervisors about the required form, as well as who within the company to contact regarding the religious accommodations for COVID-19 Vaccine requirements.
Be Cautious: Use caution while reviewing employee requests for COVID religious accommodation. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects both traditional and nontraditional religious beliefs, and employers may not be familiar with the religious beliefs stated in the request. Employers may ask employee to further explain their belief to determine if the request meets the requirements. employee religious beliefs may change, as well as Company operations. Employers will want to keep this in mind as either evolve to continue to meet their obligations of accommodation.
Accommodation Options. Employers should consider alternative accommodations before jumping to undue hardship. Exploring what options are possible to continue having employee work is ideal. This may be a plan created with employer and employee together to ensure it will be logistically feasible.
Given the confusing circumstances we have all been faced with due to COVID-19, the EEOC has made its internal religious accommodation request form available to the public as a reference to create their own form. The EEOC’s form can be found by clicking here. It also should be noted that EEOC’s guidance only covers the laws regarding anti-discrimination that it enforces. California Employees have additional protections under state and local laws. Consult an attorney before changing any practices relating to COVID vaccination requirements or providing reasonable accommodations to employees.
DOL - New Guidance on Unlawful Retaliation:
On March 10, 2022, the Department of Labor Field Assistance Bulletin released new guidance regarding unlawful retaliation under the FLSA, FMLA, and Visa programs. The in-depth examples of unlawful retaliation and their outcomes can be found by clicking here. The examples include the following:
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
Example: Employee calls WHD to learn about overtime pay. When employee passes this information along to their fellow co-workers, employer fires them.
Example: Employee asks for more break time to express breast milk for their infant. Employer sends employee home early without pay.
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Example: Employee uses FMLA leave to care for their hospitalized child. Employer gives employee negative attendance points for missing work.
Example: Employee uses FMLA leave for health issues. Employer cuts employee’s hours in response.
Under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA)
Example: WHD investigates and employer fires crew of agricultural workers.
Under Visa Programs
Example: Worker threatened with deportation.
Example: Workers intimidated after seeking help.
Example: Employer participating in the H-2B visa program attempts to interfere with WHD investigation.
DOJ Web Accessibility Guidance Update:
On March 18, 2022, the Department of Justice released the following statement:
“The Department of Justice published guidance today on web accessibility and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It explains how state and local governments (entities covered by ADA Title II) and businesses open to the public (entities covered by ADA Title III) can make sure their websites are accessible to people with disabilities as required by the ADA. The guidance discusses a range of topics, including the importance of web accessibility, barriers that inaccessible websites can create for people with disabilities, when the ADA requires web content to be accessible, and tips on making web content accessible. The press release is available by clicking here. To find out more about the ADA, visit ada.gov or call the Justice Department's toll-free ADA information line at 1-800-514-0301 or 1-800-514-0383 (TTY).”
If you have any questions regarding the above guidances, please contact the experts at Young, Cohen & Durrett, LLP at (916) 569-1700.