As COVID-19 vaccine mandates are becoming more prevalent in the workplace, labor and employment partner Susan Kline shared best practices with Law360 for reviewing and responding to employees’ requests for religious exemptions.
The publication reported that according to employment attorneys, businesses could probe whether a worker’s religion prevented them from getting all vaccines and other medical prevention treatments or just the COVID-19 vaccine. Kline said, “Make some inquiries to try to suss out if this is just a very specific COVID-19 vaccine-related objection or it really is something within the faith as this person interprets it.”
However, while this could shed light on whether the employee’s faith was the reason for their objection, Kline said this line of questioning must be done carefully. “That’s a difficult conversation to have because you end up in a theological debate, which is really not the employer’s place,” she noted.
Law360 also recommended talking to people who work with the employee. Kline said she had seen situations where an employee admitted to a co-worker or direct supervisor that they plan to lodge a religious accommodation request — even if it’s not sincere — in the event of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. She added that if someone came forward with this kind of information, the employer would be clear to ask additional questions.
“If you have a credible source report that the person expressed an intent to claim a religious belief of that sort, then I think you can inquire as to what religion is this related to, what is the particular belief and what about vaccination is inconsistent with your faith,” Kline explained.