Law360: Dinsmore Employment Attorneys Discuss Managing Religious Exemption Requests When Mandating Vaccines
Companies are increasingly mandating employees get the COVID-19 vaccine, which is resulting in rising accommodation requests and religious exemptions. Dinsmore Labor and Employment Chair Allison Goico, along with Hayley Geiler, spoke with Law360 about how employers can respectfully handle these requests. Below is an excerpt.
"A lot of employers, if they're moving towards a mandate, are going to start requiring proof, and once you call the question of whether workers have gotten vaccinated, you're going to see more accommodation requests," said Goico.
Sometimes educating a wary worker about the vaccines can supply the solution, said Dinsmore associate Hayley Geiler, a member of the firm's COVID-19 task force who has been counseling employers on issues related to the virus.
While Geiler made clear that employers should not be providing medical advice, she said they can hand over guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health officials on the vaccines to allay some workers' fears.
One client of hers had an employee object to the vaccine based on how they thought they were developed. A Catholic worker didn't want to receive a dose that they said had been manufactured by using tissue from aborted fetuses. None of the three available COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. contain fetal tissues. Johnson & Johnson uses fetal cell lines — lab-replicated fetal cells — in the production of its vaccine. Pfizer and Modernado not.
Geiler said this was a moment when sharing informational pamphlets from health agencies created a path forward.
"The employer realized this was a really good time for education, not all of them were created that way, and the solution was just to have them get a different type of vaccine," Geiler said. "It was just a very easy solution there."