Vaccine Mandates: Accommodating Disability and Religious Belief Exemptions

Vaccine Mandates: Accommodating Disability and Religious Belief Exemptions

October 11, 2021

Linda Gallagher



Editor’s notice: Within the authentic model of this weblog, Bellevue was incorrectly recognized as one of many cities with a mandate to vaccinate. Bellevue has no mandate and we’ve got made the next correction.

Whereas the general public well being emergency of COVID-19 continues, vaccination rules have been launched in each private and non-private workplaces. These mandates embrace state, state, and native necessities for sure workers to be absolutely vaccinated or threat dismissal. This weblog discusses the method for dealing with and dealing with worker requests for medical and non secular exemptions from vaccine necessities resulting from incapacity.

Vaccination mandates

Right here is an summary of the assorted vaccine mandates that have an effect on many Washington employees.


The federal authorities lately issued vaccine mandates for many federal workers, healthcare employees, and federal contractors, in addition to some non-public and public jobs with 100 or extra workers. OSHA is predicted to publish guidelines to implement the brand new federal necessities, and it stays to be seen whether or not native governments with 100 or extra workers will probably be federally mandated.


On the state degree, Proclamation 21-14 (August 9, 2021) requires full vaccination (two weeks after the final vaccination) by October 18 and most authorities workers. Exceptions could be made for individuals with disability-related medical causes or for critical non secular causes, however there is no such thing as a means for workers to have common COVID checks as an alternative of vaccinations.

Proclamation 21-14.1 (August 20, 2021) clarified and expanded the vaccine necessities. This order additionally led to different adjustments, corresponding to clarifications relating to vaccination of contractors. In Proclamation 21-14.2 (September 27, 2021), authorities vaccination rules have been up to date to incorporate native contractors who’re getting into into contracts with particular authorities companies. The governor has additionally inspired native governments to introduce related vaccination rules for his or her workers.


A lot of native governments lately issued their very own vaccine mandates. Vaccinated cities embrace Bellingham and Shoreline. You could find pattern tips and types on our web site: COVID-19 operational and personnel points.

What’s enough lodging?

Affordable lodging is any change within the work atmosphere or the best way an exercise is carried out that permits an individual in want of housing to take pleasure in equal employment alternatives. Affordable lodging can embrace adjustments to a job place, work atmosphere, coverage, apply, or process. An employer might also think about offering further private protecting tools (PPE), altering a office location, including social distancing, or creating totally different shift assignments. Teleworking may be considered as affordable lodging in some conditions, relying on the employee’s obligations and the insurance policies of his employer.

Based on EEOC tips (Part Okay.6):

Managers and supervisors chargeable for speaking with workers about employer’s vaccination compliance ought to know learn how to determine an software for placement from an worker with a incapacity and to whom to refer the applying for full assessment. As a finest apply, an employer implementing a COVID-19 vaccination coverage and requiring documentation or different affirmation of vaccination ought to inform all workers that the employer will individually think about requests for affordable lodging primarily based on incapacity or non secular perception.

Disabilities and non secular beliefs are two the explanation why lodging is taken into account and, the place acceptable, made obtainable to an worker upon request and following an interactive course of between an worker and an employer, typically by a workers consultant. Satisfactory precautions have been required by regulation lengthy earlier than the present COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing vaccination rules.

The authorized necessities could be present in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehabilitation Act), the People with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Washington Legislation Towards Discrimination (WLAD), and different relevant regulation .

What’s the course of for analyzing an enough lodging request?

Anybody entitled to incapacity / medical or non secular beliefs exemption can request affordable lodging. The affordable lodging evaluation is a versatile interactive course of with an change of data between an worker and their employer.

This course of takes into consideration an worker’s place, the employer’s enterprise wants, and the enterprise wants of a lined website contractor (if relevant). An software for lodging doesn’t should be granted if it might make it unreasonably troublesome for an employer resulting from appreciable difficulties or prices. This can be a advanced space of ​​the regulation and all employers are inspired to work carefully with their attorneys to place in place compliant insurance policies and procedures, together with relating to coronavirus vaccines and affordable precautions.

If a employee is entitled to affordable lodging primarily based on incapacity or righteous provision for religion underneath present job vaccination rules, the employee is exempt from vaccination necessities and the employer ought to think about and supply affordable lodging if that’s the case there is no such thing as a undue hardship to supply it.

Incapacity / Medical Exemptions

Medical circumstances or disabilities that may exclude individuals from COVID-19 vaccinations might embrace allergic reactions to vaccinations, being pregnant signs, or sure continual diseases or different disabilities recognized by an worker’s well being care supplier. So far as legally permissible, employers can receive medical paperwork from workers who apply for lodging appropriate for the disabled. Based on EEOC tips:

If this isn’t apparent or already identified, an employer can ask questions or request medical data to find out whether or not the employee’s incapacity requires lodging, both the one requested or a special one. Potential questions for the worker could also be: (1) how the incapacity results in a restriction, (2) how the requested placement successfully addresses the restriction, (3) whether or not one other type of placement may successfully clear up the issue, and (4) how Proposed placement permits the worker to proceed to carry out the “important features” of his place (ie fundamental skilled duties).

Spiritual exceptions

Exceptions granted primarily based on honest non secular beliefs, practices or customs would permit workers to proceed working with out vaccination.

Title VII defines “faith” as “all facets of spiritual observance and apply and perception”, not simply practices prescribed or prohibited by a person’s perception. Social, political, or financial philosophies and mere private preferences should not “non secular” beliefs inside the which means of Title VII. Nonetheless, it’s not straightforward to tell apart one non secular perception from different beliefs. In Thomas v. Rev. Vol., 450 US 707, 714 (1981) said by the US Supreme Courtroom:

Figuring out what a “non secular” perception or apply is is often a troublesome and delicate process. . . . Nonetheless, the answer to this query will not be primarily based on a judicial notion of the respective conviction or apply; Spiritual beliefs have to be unacceptable, logical, constant, or comprehensible to others to deserve safety underneath the First Modification.

Employers might inquire concerning the sincerity or non secular nature of an worker’s beliefs when contemplating an software for exemption from non secular beliefs. The EEOC Spiritual Housing Compliance Guide offers the next tips for employers relating to claims of spiritual discrimination:

An worker who fails to adjust to an affordable request from an employer to confirm the sincerity or religiosity of a said perception runs the chance of dropping any subsequent allegation that the employer wrongly refused placement.

Nonetheless, an individual’s real non secular perception doesn’t should comply with the rules of any explicit faith. For instance, simply because a specific church has inspired its members to obtain the COVID-19 vaccines, can a person member maintain a honest non secular perception that’s opposite. The EEOC tips embrace:

[T]The employer ought to usually assume {that a} employee’s request for non secular placement is predicated on a real non secular perception, apply, or compliance. Nonetheless, if an worker requests a non secular association and information are identified to an employer that present an goal foundation for questioning both the non secular character or the sincerity of a specific perception, apply or ethos, the employer could be entitled to request further help Info.

Confidentiality of Protected Info

The employer is obliged to maintain the knowledge offered by an worker confidential or that an worker has requested affordable lodging, whether or not for causes associated to disabilities / medical issues or non secular beliefs.

Based on the ADA, it’s unlawful for an employer to reveal that an worker is receiving affordable lodging or to take revenge in opposition to an worker who requests an lodging. The Public Data Act (PRA) additionally protects data indicative of an worker’s non secular beliefs or affiliations (see RCW 42.56.235).

I counsel that employers, their supervisors and workers representatives work carefully with their attorneys relating to dealing with exemption and placement functions and the file administration related to these functions.

MRSC sources

Further sources

MRSC is a personal, not-for-profit group serving native authorities in Washington State. Eligible authorities companies in Washington state can use our free Ask MRSC in-person service to get solutions to authorized, political, or monetary questions.

About Linda Gallagher

Linda Gallagher joined MRSC in 2017. She beforehand served as Senior Deputy Prosecuting Legal professional for King County and Assistant Legal professional Basic.

Linda’s expertise in native regulation consists of threat administration, tort, civil rights, transit, employment, compensation of employees, main area, automobile registration, regulation enforcement, corrections and public well being.

She graduated from the College of Washington Faculty of Legislation.