from Christopher Schrader, HR Indiana SHRM Director of Government Affairs
All Indiana HR professionals are awaiting OSHA’s emergency rules requiring employees of organizations with 100 or more employees to require their staff to receive vaccinations as a condition of employment. These are expected in the next ten to fifteen days.
We do not know what exceptions will be permitted, but logically we can expect both medical and religious exceptions to the rule as the EEOC has already provided guidance. How should an HR pro proceed with such requests for accommodation?
The answer is: Just like we do for any other request for accommodation (hat tip Megan Nail).
- Assume the request will be granted
- Follow your normal processes and practices associated with accommodation requests
- When making the decision, be careful to apply the same level of rigor – no more, no less
- Document your decision and stay consistent
I have personal experience with religious accommodation and can tell you with confidence that documentation may be hard to come by. Asking for a written statement supporting the request is fine, but not everyone will be comfortable with this. You may also run into language, literacy or cultural issues that may make this harder to obtain, if at all. Some may provide letters or writings from spiritual leaders, but not all persons of faith are associated with a major branch of religion or place of worship. Lack of such evidence does not, in itself, necessarily invalidate their claim. Your starting position should be to accept the employee’s religious belief as authentic.
Here are some helpful links (courtesy of Jen Lange) to get up to speed.
- Barnes & Thornburg Law: Employer Guidance Regarding Mandatory Vaccinations
- Indy Star: What to Know about Religious Exemptions for the COVID-19 Vaccine
- SHRM: Biden Orders Vaccination Mandates for Larger Employers, Federal Workforce
- SHRM: Viewpoint: Vaccination Accommodation – Is That Religious Request Sincere?