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Vaccine Mandates and Federal Guidance: EEOC and OSHA, Religious and Medical Accommodations, State Law Limits

Recording of a 90-minute CLE video webinar with Q&A

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Recorded event now available

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This CLE webinar will provide employment counsel with guidance on the current state of enforcement of federal and state vaccine mandates and what employers may require to accommodate a religious or medical objection to mandates. The panel will discuss EEOC guidance and state requirements in Illinois, California, and other states. The panel will address best practices for employment health-related policies in both the context of COVID-19 and future non-COVID illnesses.


On Oct. 25, 2021, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued new guidance for resolving religious objections to COVID-19 workplace vaccination mandates under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. This guidance comes when many employees are submitting requests for accommodations to workplace vaccine mandates based on both religious and medical-related reasons.

As to requests for an accommodation based on sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance, the EEOC has said that under Title VII, employers must approach each request on an individualized, fact-specific basis and weigh the requested accommodation against any undue hardship it may cause. While employees must put employers on notice, they need not use "magic words" to trigger their requests. Employment counsel should advise employers that under federal law, they may make a "limited factual inquiry" and seek additional information if they have an "objective basis for questioning either the religious nature or the sincerity of a particular belief."

The ADA provides that when employees have a health-related reason, including, without limitation, a disability of some sort, which prevents them from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, they have the right to seek an exemption as an accommodation. Such situations may arise where an individual had a prior allergic or hypersensitivity reaction to other vaccines, to a component of the COVID-19 vaccine, or a recent COVID case, resulting in the necessity of a waiting period before vaccination. Alternatively, certain disabling health conditions may result in a treating healthcare provider recommending that certain applicants or employees not receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Even if an accommodation request is valid, the employer may be permitted to deny the request if the accommodation would pose an undue hardship on the employer.

It is also important for employers to be aware that state or local laws may differ from Title VII and the ADA, including industry-specific rules regarding COVID-19 vaccine mandates and accommodation requests.

Employers should ensure that they have personnel policies in place that memorialize their compliance with the ADA, Title VII, the PDA, and other applicable laws and their commitment to providing reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants and employees as the law may require. The policies should set forth the procedure via which the employer expects its employees to submit an accommodation request and provide details on how they should do so.

Listen as our expert panel discusses the enforceability of current vaccine mandates and the requirements under federal law, and some state or local laws for accommodation requests based on religious or disability reasons. The panel will discuss best practices of employers in creating personnel policies for compliance with all applicable laws.



  1. Vaccine mandates
    1. Exemptions
      1. Religious
      2. Disability
    2. Litigation status
    3. State restrictions
      1. Illinois
      2. California
      3. Other states


The panel will address these and other key topics:

  • What is the status of litigation regarding vaccine mandates?
  • How far can employers go in making a "limited factual inquiry" into an employee's religious belief when seeking an exemption?
  • What must an employee provide when seeking a disability exemption from vaccine mandates?


Barna, Jennifer
Jennifer Stefanick Barna

Senior Counsel
Epstein Becker & Green

Ms. Barna’s practice focuses on civil litigation and corporate counseling in the areas of employment law and...  |  Read More

Harty, Frank
Frank Harty

Nyemaster Goode

Mr. Harty regularly represents companies, nonprofit organizations, and institutions of higher learning in day-to-day...  |  Read More

Zielinski, Robert
Robert T. Zielinski

Miller Canfield Paddock and Stone

Mr. Zielinski has been representing employers in virtually all aspects of their relationships to employees and various...  |  Read More

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