Incentivizing the COVID-19 Vaccine
Since the COVID-19 vaccine began being distributed earlier this year, many employers have been wondering whether they could legally incentivize employees to receive the vaccine and how to go about it. As stated by the Center for Health and Wellness Law LLC, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had previously issued guidance on mandating the COVID-19 vaccine. While many believed that if the EEOC had laid a pathway for mandating the vaccine, then incentivizing the vaccine would be permissible by default. However, the lack of clarification caused this to become a gray area most employees avoided.
Luckily, the EEOC released clarified guidelines that have been broken down and explained in a recent WELCOA article. WELCOA states, according to the new EEOC guidance, an employer may incentivize employees and encourage employees and their family members to get the COVID-19 vaccine. However, employers need to make sure such incentives do not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).
Tracking and Verifying the Vaccine
Now that employers have the green light to start incentivizing the vaccine, the next question is how do you verify and track which employees received the vaccine? WELCOA explains that, when working with a third party, such as an employee’s health care provider, a pharmacy, or the local public health department, the process is simple. Because asking for proof of vaccination does not qualify as the types of information that the ADA and GINA regulate, incentivizing employees to get the vaccine from a third-party and then verifying and tracking the vaccine through that third party is legal. The EEOC does note that employers need to keep proof of vaccination information confidential in accordance with the ADA. The EEOC does state that the pre-vaccination screening questions done during the appointment qualify as disability-related screening questions, which implicates the ADA. So it is important that your incentives are not “coercive,” and any incentive tied to employees answering disability-related questions must be part of a “voluntary” wellness program. For more information, visit WELCOA.