Targeting religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccination mandates

Alexis Keenan of Yahoo Finance to break down the qualifications of religious expectations for COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Video transcript

KARINA CONTRERAS: Welcome back, everyone. Well, more and more countries and companies are following federal guidelines to introduce vaccination mandates. But is it becoming increasingly difficult to obtain religious exemption? Here for explanation is Yahoo Finance’s legal rapporteur, Alexis Keenan.

ALEXIS KEENAN: Hi, Karina. It may not get harder, but it certainly gets more fashionable, I guess. A growing number of American workers are indeed asking for these exemptions for religion or disability in these employer vaccination mandates.

Now the reason for the rise is really simple. There are more mandates and more are coming. As you said earlier in the show, companies, governments are already demanding vaccinations. And then I add to that this temporary White House mandate that is expected every day. This is what OSHA, as we understand it, will require companies with hundreds or more employees to vaccinate or test all their staff every week.

The challenge now for both employers and workers is that this area of ​​law governing religious exceptions is really unclear. And there are very few strict rules. Now, as a starting point, all workers in the U.S. are eligible for qualified religious placement. And this is in line with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

But workers are only eligible for this type of installation under a few important conditions. They need to be met. And the burden is on the employee or worker to justify these things.

First, the worker must have a firm religious belief. Second, this belief must in fact contradict vaccination. And third, the accommodation or that alternative working condition which would be granted to them must not impose an unnecessary burden on the employer. And this one is big.

So you can already imagine and anticipate these kinds of gray areas and the problems of these arguments, because it really starts with that idea of ​​proving a sincerely religious belief that is not an easy task for any employer. It is now surprising that even a lack of religious belief can provide a valid basis for applying for religious accommodation.

Now, you add to this that employers can then legally drill even deeper. They may ask the employee for more information about why their religious beliefs are contrary to vaccination. And here lies the whole real conflict. And cases that end up in the courts are usually about that.

Companies now already have concerns about the OSHA rule and its management. And that became apparent on Tuesday when business groups met with White House officials. Some are asking that this ETS, this OSHA standard, be postponed until the holidays because they are worried about having enough workers to do the job. And so we are still waiting for the language for this OSHA rule. We don’t know yet what he will say. Jared?

JARED BLIKRE: Of course, I’ll take it from here. Thanks for that, Alexis Keenan of Yahoo Finance.

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