By Derek Ross, CLMS, HR Consultant, East Coast Risk Management
On May 28th, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued additional guidance regarding COVID vaccinations which included a conditional green light for companies to offer incentives to employees who receive the vaccine.
The main highlights of the new incentive guidance are summarized below:
- Federal EEO laws do not prevent employers from incentivizing employees who voluntarily receive the COVID-19 vaccine from a third party (not the employer).
- Employers can ask for proof of vaccination such as the vaccination card but must keep vaccination records confidential pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
- There are no limits to the incentives offered by the company if the vaccine was voluntary and performed by a third party outside of the employer. If the employer is administering the vaccines to its own employees, the incentives are limited so that the employee is not coerced or pressured into getting the vaccine.
- Employers cannot offer incentives to family members of employees to get the vaccine but may provide information to educate them about the COVID-19 vaccine and raise awareness of its benefits.
A recent study done by UCLA’s Covid-19 Health and Politics Project found that roughly one third of the unvaccinated population said that a cash incentive would make them more likely to get the vaccine. Many cities, states and companies have already implemented some creative cash incentives. For example, Ohio recently launched its “Vax-a-Million” lottery for all residents who have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Any Ohioan aged 18 or older who has received at least one dose of the vaccine can be entered into a weekly drawing to win one of five one-million-dollar prizes. Younger Ohioans who have been vaccinated have not been overlooked. Anyone 12-17 years old can enter a weekly drawing to win a full-ride college scholarship (with room, board, tuition, and books), to any Ohio state college or university. West Virginia offers a similar lottery program with prizes ranging from cash, vehicles, lifetime hunting licenses, custom firearms, and scholarships. Other incentives from states and municipalities around the nation include free beer, music concerts, or tickets to major sporting events for vaccinated residents.
Many employers are also offering a variety of incentives to their vaccinated employees, including cash, gift cards, or paid time off. With this new guidance from the EEOC, more employers may decide to follow suit. Whatever your organization decides to do, be sure to follow your state’s requirements, if any, regarding time off for employees who are sick or who are getting vaccinated.
Incentives may not motivate some employees who are still concerned that the “Emergency Use Authorization” status granted to these vaccines by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) remains in place. Last month, Pfizer applied to the FDA for full approval for their COVID-19 vaccine. Moderna submitted its application last week. However, full approvals are not expected soon as the process can take months.
For more information about the EEOC guidance on the COVID-19 vaccine visit: https://www.eeoc.gov/newsroom/eeoc-issues-updated-covid-19-technical-assistance .
If you are an employer with questions about any safety, workers’ compensation, or human resources issue, contact East Coast Risk Management by calling 724-864-8745 or emailing us at email@example.com. We will be happy to help!
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