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Can You Request A Religious Exemption To Your Employer’s Vaccine Mandate?

Vaccine

As an increasing number of employers in California and across the country are ordering their employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to re-enter the workplace or remain employed, many workers are pushing back.

And perhaps the most common and well-known ways in which employees can attempt to continue working without having to getting a vaccine is through a religious exemption. But when it comes to the question, “Can I request a religious exemption to the employer’s vaccine mandate,” the answer is tricky.

While an employee’s right to request a religious exemption is protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, not all workers are eligible to request this exemption.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion and other protected characteristics. Under federal law, employers must provide reasonable accommodations for workers with sincerely held religious beliefs. The only exception to this if doing so would pose an “undue hardship” on the employer’s business.

If you do not want to get vaccinated, but your employer makes vaccination against COVID-19 mandatory in order to continue your employment or re-enter the workplace, consider consulting with an attorney about your options. Contact our Los Angeles religion discrimination attorney at Obagi Law Group, P.C., if you wish to request a religious exemption to the vaccine mandate.

What Qualifies as a Sincerely Held Religious Belief?

An employee does not necessarily have to believe in a deity for their religious belief to qualify for an exemption. An employee’s stated religious beliefs or practices do not necessarily have to be comprehensible, consistent, or even logical to qualify for a religious exemption.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), to qualify as a sincerely held or bona fide religious belief for the purposes of requesting a religious exemption, an employee’s stated religious belief is “generally presumed or easily established.” The sincerity of the stated religious belief should not be in dispute, according to the federal agency.

However, the following factors could undermine the credibility of an employee who requests a religious exemption:

  • The employee’s behavior is inconsistent with the stated belief
  • The requested accommodation is “a particularly desirable benefit” that is likely requested for non-religious reasons
  • The timing of the employee’s request makes the employer doubt the sincerity of the stated religious belief
  • The employer has other legitimate reasons to believe that the accommodation is requested for non-religious reasons

If you wish to request a religious exemption to your employer’s mandatory vaccination, consider first speaking with an attorney to discuss your particular situation.

When Employers Are Not Required to Accommodate an Employee’s Religious Belief

Even if an employee’s religious belief or practice qualifies for an exemption under federal law, the employer is not required to provide an exemption if doing so would cause an undue hardship on the employer or their business operations.

A requested accommodation may cause an undue hardship when:

  • It is too costly for the employer
  • It would compromise workplace safety
  • It would disrupt workplace productivity or efficiency
  • It would infringe on other employees’ rights
  • It would result in other workers doing substantially more work or potentially hazardous work

In the context of COVID-19 and religious exemptions, an employer could argue that the anti-vaccine accommodation would cause undue hardship because non-vaccinated workers pose a danger to co-workers or customers. The employer could also argue that other accommodations, such as switching to remote work, could disrupt workplace efficiency or be too costly for the employer.

Consider speaking with a knowledgeable attorney to review your particular situation and determine if you can request a religious exemption to your employer’s mandatory vaccination against COVID-19. Schedule a case review with our attorneys at Obagi Law Group, P.C., today. Call 424-284-2401.

Resources:

eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/section-12-religious-discrimination#h_9546543277761610748655186

eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/questions-and-answers-religious-discrimination-workplace

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