It’s unclear exactly how these religious exemptions – and all the complexities that go with them – will play out in court. Laws vary from state to state, and even the federal government is catching up. “An agency may be required to provide reasonable accommodation to employees who communicate to the agency that they are not vaccinated against COVID-19 because of a disability or because of a sincere religious belief, practice or observance. The government said in its advice for federal employees on the Biden administration’s recent tenure for most federal workers. The guidelines indicate that agencies may consider “the basis of the claim” when considering exemptions, as well as the effect on job duties and workplace safety. “Further guidance on legally required exceptions will be issued,” he added clearly.
Workers in the private sector are technically not subject to a federal vaccine mandate, even after the Biden administration’s high-profile announcement earlier this month. The expected Occupational safety and health administration the rule will be just demand companies with more than 100 employees to test unvaccinated workers every week. The rule, however, is expected to put pressure on companies to impose their own vaccine mandates. In a long summary policies and practices of Covid-19 earlier this year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said federal anti-discrimination laws like Title VII do not generally prohibit companies from imposing vaccination warrants to their workers.
At the same time, the EEOC explained that companies must provide reasonable accommodations to workers who seek religious exemption from the Covid-19 vaccine, unless it represents “undue hardship” for the employer. “However, if an employee requests religious accommodation and an employer is aware of facts which provide an objective basis for questioning the religious nature or sincerity of a particular belief, practice or observance , the employer would be justified in requesting supporting information, ”noted the EEOC.
The Supreme Court, for its part, did not hear a case on religious exemptions from vaccination warrants. Jacobson v. Massachusetts, the founding case of 1905 where judges upheld an anti-smallpox warrant in Cambridge, centered on medical objections to the vaccine rather than spiritual ones. Perhaps the most notable case in which the High Court looked into the matter came in 1992, in Division of Employment c. Smith, where the court dismissed the free practice clause challenges against what she described as “neutral laws of general application.” This case involved two Oregon men challenging a state law that denied them unemployment benefits for using peyote, which has sacramental uses in the Native American Church.