Where previous protections offered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 fell short, employees were left to make hard choices between quitting their jobs or working in a position that did not fully accommodate their medical needs while pregnant or after giving birth. Although some state laws fill those needs, many states do not provide any protection. During 2022, two important protections were signed into law by President Joe Biden: the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, and the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act. The new protections put in place by these acts ensure that pregnant employees will not suffer because of their pregnancy, but instead be provided the proper and necessary time off and accommodations after giving birth.
Religious Exemptions to Mandatory Vaccine Policy
Employees who refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine for religious reasons are protected by Title VII. Therefore, religious accommodations for the COVID-19 vaccine should be treated like any other religion-based accommodation request. Employers should continue to provide employees with a clear and accessible process for requesting an accommodation and should continue to analyze requested accommodations on a case-by-case basis and offer accommodations when required pursuant to the law and its policies. Importantly, employees requesting such an accommodation need not use any specific phrase, or “magical words,” in order to trigger an employer’s obligations. Employers should keep in mind that all sincerely held religious beliefs may give rise to an accommodation obligation, not only “mainstream” or commonly-known religions. …
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