The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released a new round of guidance permitting employers to offer workers rewards for receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. However, areas of confusion remain due to a lack of clarity or examples.
The new guidance permits employers to offer rewards or potentially even penalties to encourage their workers to receive the vaccine. But, the rules failed to clarify if an option to receive rewards must be offered in cases where workers have a valid disability or objection preventing them from receiving the vaccine.
Additionally, these new rules place no limit on the value of incentives an employer may offer when the vaccine is administered by a third party. However, if the employer themselves offer the vaccine, the EEOC warns incentives should not be so large as to be coercive. Unfortunately, the EEOC provides no guidelines or examples for when a reward may be large enough to be regarded as coercive.
This can be critical information as the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits workplace medical programs that require the disclosure of medical information. Due to the pre-vaccination screening questions, employees may feel coerced by large incentives to surrender protected medical information. However, without further information, it is unclear what the limit on incentives may be.