WHAT I WOULDN'T DO: Legal Updates from HR's Trenches: Offering incentives to get the vaccine? Tread carefully.

AuthorHyman, Jon

The COVID vaccine will only work to end the pandemic if people actually accept syringes into their arms. But according to one recent survey, 39% of Americans say they either "probably" or "definitely" won't get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them. While these percentages are trending down, the needle on this issue isn't moving quickly enough.

To overcome this vaccine hesitancy, some employers are offering their employees financial incentives to obtain the vaccine. Some employers, such as nursing homes and retailers, are offering a couple of hours of additional paid time off, or nominal stipends (e.g., $25).

If you are considering offering a financial incentive, I caution you to tread carefully to make sure that you do you within the bounds of our equal employment opportunity laws.

  1. Make exceptions for disability and religion

    Vaccination rules must have exceptions for employees' disabilities under the ADA and employees' sincerely held religious beliefs under Title VII.

    For this reason, if you are offering employees a financial incentive to get vaccinated, be prepared to offer the same exact incentive to those who cannot get vaccinated because of one of these legally protected reasons.

  2. Comply with EEOC wellness incentive rules

    Incentive programs must comply with the EEOC's wellness program regulations.

    While the EEOC's new regulations will not be final until March 8, the vaccination issue will stretch for months beyond that date, so employers should be aware of these rules and the risks they pose.

    Under these soon-to-be-final...

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