Religious exemption for employees
Refusal of the Covid-19 vaccine, or any other for adult use in the workplace is becoming a major issue for us now. While medical exemptions do exist, most of us know know hard these are to acquire. Religious exemption, however is codified into federal statue and the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) is the body that determines and regulates the exercise and implementation of this protection. According to federal regulation, employers must accommodate a “strongly held religious belief” in the work place. Accommodation may mean several things, so if you use this exemption, know that it could mean that you must work from home, be separated physically, or undergo some other procedure that “keeps the rest of the employees safe.” While there is a fine line where actions might be considered discrimination, the employer does have the right to protect other employees and to ask for an explanation of your religious beliefs. We suggest being willing to offer your own accommodation suggestions, (such as “I would be willing to wear a mask, temperature check, etc”) and being prepared with your religious belief statement.
A strongly held religious belief CANNOT be a secular belief that ”vaccine cause injury”, or “I don’t believe in vaccines”. You must have a well-prepared statement that clearly states your “strongly held belief” and be willing and able to stand behind it. Here is an example:
“I am exercising my right to religious exemption from the Covid-19 vaccine. My strongly-held religious belief is a non-denominational belief and practice that states that my body is endowed with an innate (God-given, higher-power-endowed) ability to fight and recover from illness. In addition, my religious beliefs prevent me from putting into my body any substance that will inhibit my body from doing its job, or falsely and exogenously induce immunity or an immune response. I object to both the concept of as well as to the ingredients in this product. My strongly-help religious beliefs prohibit me from accepting this product.”
We recommend you offer your own ideas of accommodation that you are willing to do to assist your employer in accepting the exemption. You may have other ideas, but here are a few:
1). I will continue to wear a mask
2). I will temperature check daily at home and keep a log 3). I will continue to log and track symptoms
Educate yourself on use of Religious Exemption
Issues to be cognizant of when exercising your religious exemption. According to the EEOC, you must be able to present and support your religious belief as follows:
Section 12 of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
“Like the religious nature of a belief, observance, or practice, the sincerity of an employee’s stated religious belief is usually not in dispute and is “generally presumed or easily established.” Further, the Commission and courts “are not and should not be in the business of deciding whether a person holds religious beliefs for the ‘proper’ reasons. We thus restrict our inquiry to whether or not the religious belief system is sincerely held; we do not review the motives or reasons for holding the belief in the first place.” The individual’s sincerity in espousing a religious observance or practice is “largely a matter of individual credibility.” Moreover, “a sincere religious believer doesn’t forfeit his religious rights merely because he is not scrupulous in his observance,” although “[e]vidence tending to show that an employee acted in a manner inconsistent with his professed religious belief is, of course, relevant to the factfinder’s evaluation of sincerity.” Factors that – either alone or in combination – might undermine an employee’s credibility include: whether the employee has behaved in a manner markedly inconsistent with the professed belief; whether the accommodation sought is a particularly desirable benefit that is likely to be sought for secular reasons; whether the timing of the request renders it suspect (e.g., it follows an earlier request by the employee for the same benefit for secular reasons); and whether the employer otherwise has reason to believe the accommodation is not sought for religious reasons. “
“However, none of these factors is dispositive. For example, although prior inconsistent conduct is relevant to the question of sincerity, an individual’s beliefs – or degree of adherence – may change over time, and therefore an employee’s newly adopted or inconsistently observed religious practice may nevertheless be sincerely held. Similarly, an individual’s belief may be to adhere to a religious custom only at certain times, even though others may always adhere, or, fearful of discrimination, he or she may have forgone his or her sincerely held religious practice during the application process and not revealed it to the employer until after he or she was hired or later in employment. An employer also should not assume that an employee is insincere simply because some of his or her practices deviate from the commonly followed tenets of his or her religion, or because the employee adheres to some common practices but not others. As noted, courts have held that “Title VII protects more than . . . practices specifically mandated by an employee’s religion.”
In addition, ICAN has been successful in making employers retract their Covid-19 vaccine requirements. You can get more info here:
ICAN’s legal team, led by Aaron Siri, has taken legal action to challenge employers/schools that require their employees/students to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Employers and schools that previously required the COVID-19 vaccine have dropped those requirements! This includes an employer that did so on the heels of ICAN’s legal team challenging the mandate in court.
If you or anyone you know is being required by an employer or school to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, ICAN is pleased to offer to support legal action on your behalf to challenge the requirement. In order to obtain this potential assistance, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and provide a copy of the written notice from your school or employer stating that the COVID-19 vaccine is required.
Without your support, our ability to fight these illegal COVID-19 vaccine requirements would not be happening. Thank you for making our work possible!