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Can Religious and Medical Exemptions Under Title VII Be A Defense for Mandatory COVID Vaccine Refusal?

Dec. 14, 2021

Ever since President Biden announced his Path Out of the Pandemic plan, employers in Illinois and across the US have implemented mandatory Covid-19 vaccination policies.

While the policies may differ from one employer to another, they must allow employees to request accommodations based on medical or religious grounds. An employment rights lawyer in Chicago will tell you the same thing, so your case may hold up in court as a defense for refusing the Covid-19 vaccine.

What the EEOC Says

As per the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act, some healthcare employees are exempt from liability if they refuse to participate in healthcare initiatives that are contrary to their conscience. However, they are also prohibited from discriminating against applicants and employees who refuse in kind.

The government cannot force anyone to get vaccinated if they don’t want to. However, as per the mandate mentioned above, many workers will soon realize that vaccination is mandatory for continued employment, and Title VII may not protect them.

However, as per the new guidelines set by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers can terminate employment on this basis only if it doesn’t violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or infringe on anyone’s religious beliefs.

Here are some of the main points that the EEOC set for medical and religious accommodations from vaccination requirements:

  • Employers should reasonably accommodate workers with sincere religious beliefs and medical conditions that conflict with the vaccination requirement.

  • The employee has to inform their employer that they wish to be exempt from getting the vaccine because it violates religious beliefs and can affect medical conditions.

  • Employers should assume that the request for vaccination exemption is based on sincerely held religious beliefs and medical conditions. In case of objections, the employer can conduct an inquiry and ask for supporting evidence or information. If the employee fails to provide either or refuses to comply, their request can be denied.

The EEOC does not explicitly say that mandatory vaccination is legal in the points mentioned above. It doesn't have to. Illinois is an 'at-will state which means that employers can terminate employees for almost any reason that does not violate the employment contract or state/federal laws. As such, no law prevents employers from mandating that their employees should get vaccinated against Covid-19.

However, employers can make continued employment conditional to ensure that their workers are not direct threats to the health and safety of their colleagues. This can include mandatory vaccinations.

Contact the Law Office of Michael T. Smith & Associates for a Consultation

Whether you got vaccinated or not because of medical or religious reasons, you should be able to work each day without fear of harassment or hostility. If you were also victimized in the workplace because of your sex, gender, race, or any other factor, contact employment rights lawyer in Chicago, Michael T. Smith, right away.

He and his team of dedicated attorneys have been representing victims like you get the compensation they deserve from unfair treatment for years. Get in touch with us today to fight for the maximum amount you can get.