In 2022 and beyond, many employers will need to strategize how to discuss vaccination status with job applicants. As public health discussions and requirements change, employers may decide to make receiving the COVID-19 vaccine a condition of employment. MP’s HR compliance experts share considerations and best practices employers should implement during the interview process, including questions about vaccines and maintaining compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Can employers ask interview questions about vaccines?
Generally speaking, it’s a best practice to wait to ask about vaccination status until after making the job offer. The ADA prohibits employers from asking questions prior to a job offer that may reveal if a candidate has a disability. When candidates provide more than a yes or no answer about their vaccination status, employers are at a higher risk of violating the ADA. If a candidate elaborates on their vaccination status, they may reveal information protected under the ADA.
The EEOC has recently clarified that solely asking an employee or candidate their vaccination status is not a disability-related inquiry. Employers may ask whether candidates have received the vaccine without violating any employment laws. The question alone doesn’t violate the ADA.
Can employers require COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment?
Employers may require COVID vaccination from their employees if it’s job related and consistent with business necessity. Some examples of business reasons for requiring vaccination are:
- To protect the vulnerable clients or customers your organization serves
- To meet industry standards, such as requirements for healthcare workers in certain states
It’s important to note employers must apply COVID vaccination as a condition of employment for all employees in similar positions, not just new employees. If an employer requires new corporate office workers to be vaccinated, they must also require their current corporate office workers to be vaccinated. If an employer isn’t asking their current employees to be vaccinated, they can’t ask new hires to be, either. This practice could be considered discriminatory.
How should employers inform candidates of COVID vaccination requirements during the hiring process?
Employers should be transparent when their jobs require COVID vaccination. Here are some best practices organizations should implement:
- State in the job posting that COVID vaccination is a requirement of the role.
- Include language in the job posting stating accommodations for disabilities and religious beliefs will be considered, as the law requires.
- Interviewers, HR personnel, or recruiters should verbally note the COVID vaccination requirement when discussing the role with candidates. They should also state the applicant should not reveal any information about their vaccination status at that moment. The interviewer, recruiter, or HR professional should emphasize that they’re sharing a job requirement. They should say they don’t want any other information. If a candidate revealed why they weren’t vaccinated, they may have inadvertently shared information about a disability or their religion. Receiving this information before making a hiring decision could leave the employer open to risk of discrimination and ADA violation.
- Besides stating a COVID vaccination requirement, employers should not ask other questions that might reveal a candidate’s vaccination status or beliefs. They should focus solely on inquiries related to the job.
How should an employer ask candidates question about vaccines?
Employers may ask a candidate if they’re vaccinated against COVID. These are the best practices:
- Wait until after extending a job offer to an applicant.
- Preface the questions by telling applicants only to answer “yes” or “no.”
- Instruct the candidate not to share any information about why they are, or aren’t, vaccinated.
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