Benefits

EEOC says that employers legally can offer incentives to employees to get vaccinated in almost all instances

Jon Hyman

01 June 2021

Employers have been anxiously waiting for the EEOC to publish its guidance for employers on incentives offered to employees in exchange for getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Late last week, the EEOC finally released that guidance. The issue is whether the incentive renders the vaccine coerced and therefore non-voluntary, which would be unlawful under the ADA and GINA.

What did the EEOC say:

  • An employer may offer an incentive to employees to voluntarily provide documentation or other confirmation that they received a vaccination on their own.
  • An employer may offer an incentive to employees for voluntarily receiving a vaccination administered by the employer or its agent as long as the incentive is not so substantial as to be coercive, and as long as the employer does not acquire genetic information while administering the vaccines. The EEOC does not offer any guidance as to what “so substantial as to be coercive” means, but it’s safe to assume that the incentives employers are offering (a day or two of added PTO, payments or gift cards up to a couple hundred dollars) will not meet this standards and are safe. And when states are offering the vaccinated the chance to win a million dollars…
  • An employer may not offer any incentives to an employee in exchange for a family member’s receipt of a vaccination from the employer or its agent, as such incentive would necessarily require the disclosure of the family medical history of the employee, which would violate GINA.
  • An employer may offer vaccinations to an employee’s family members if those vaccines are voluntary, employees are not penalized if their family members are not vaccinated, and all medical information obtained from family members during the pre-vaccine screening process is only used for the purpose of providing the vaccination, is kept confidential, and is not provided to any managers, supervisors, or others who make employment decisions for the employees.
  • Employers may (and I’ll add, should) provide employees and their family members with information to educate them about COVID-19 vaccines and raise awareness about the benefits of vaccination.
This guidance is not earth-shattering or surprising. With more than 50 percent of the country having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, it provides confirmation and legal comfort to those employers that have already offered such incentives. It also follows an important governmental trend we’ve recently seen across agencies—the adoption of policies intended to incentivize people to get vaccinated. Whether its PTO for vaccines, the CDC’s new mask rules, or OSHA reversing course and eliminating its prior guidance that required the reporting of adverse reactions to employer-mandated vaccines, the federal government is actively breaking down barriers that discourage or disincentivize employees from getting vaccinated.
With only 40.7 percent of the country fully vaccinated, we are a long way from the number needed to reach the all-important herd immunity, if we ever get there. While it feels like life is starting to return to normal, the COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet. Do your part and get your shot. And, if you’re an employer looking to get as many of your employees vaccinated as possible, you can rest easier knowing that the EEOC will not penalize you for offering vaccine incentives to your employees.

Written by Jon Hyman

About Workforce.com

blog workforce

We build robust scheduling & attendance software for businesses with 500+ frontline workers. With custom BI reporting and demand-driven scheduling, we help our customers reduce labor spend and increase profitability across their business. It's as simple as that.

Book a call
See the software
workforce news

Relevant Videos

This is Workforce.com

Hi, My name is Meg and this is my introduction to Workforce.com

Case Study: COVIDCheck Colorado

Find out how Workforce.com powered vaccine sites with demand driven scheduling and attendance.

Related Articles

workforce blog

Benefits

Fixing some common misconceptions about HIPAA

Ever since the CDC amended its COVID-19 guidance to say that the fully vaccinated no longer need to wea...

COVID-19, health care, HIPAA, human resources, wellness

workforce blog

Benefits

We are in the midst of a public mental health crisis; how employers can help

Do not ignore these issues or your employees who are living with them. Mental health illnesses are no d...

ADA, benefits, Coronavirus, FMLA, mental health, paid time off

workforce blog

Benefits

EEOC commissioner wants industry-specific COVID-19 guidelines

With COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy a legitimate barrier to reaching herd immunity, we need rules that will...

benefits, COVID-19, EEOC, health care, wellness

Read the Workforce.com magazine

workforce magazine