In latest edition of The Wright Toolbox:
- Building Immunity: COVID-19 Vaccines Amidst the Construction Industry – read now
- Safety First on the Fourth- read now
Building Immunity: COVID-19 Vaccines Amidst the Construction Industry
Long lines have dwindled for the COVID-19 vaccine, and now you can even receive a dose mid-grocery store run. With this being the case, what’s keeping the unvaccinated population from making a stop at the pharmacy counter on their way from the produce to the dairy section?
A recent study found that amidst surveyed adults aged 18 to 64, over 45% of those in the construction industry were hesitant about getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Common sources of reluctance cited were concerns over side effects, and not feeling the need to receive one or uncertainty of safety.
In an industry considered essential from the beginnings of the pandemic, and one with inevitable human contact, some employers in construction may feel the need to provide additional encouragement to team members to get vaccinated. If you’re an employer that wishes to do so, learn the best practices when it comes to incentivization as issued by the EEOC in our article below.
Can an Employer Incentivize COVID-19 Vaccines?
On May 28, 2021, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) supplemented its COVID-vaccine guidance and addressed employer incentives for voluntary COVID-19 vaccinations.
In prior guidance, the EEOC stated that an employer may impose a COVID-19 vaccine mandate (as long as it provides reasonable accommodation for religion and disability). Nonetheless, many employers have opted to incentivize employees to voluntarily receive vaccines, rather than require them. The EEOC’s position on vaccine incentive programs has been unclear until now.
Incentives for Third Party v. Employer Vaccination of Employee
The EEOC’s updated guidance distinguishes between incentives to provide proof of vaccines administered by the employer and those administered by a third-party provider such as a pharmacy, public health department, or other health care provider. There are no limits to incentivizing employees to voluntarily provide documentation that they have been vaccinated by the third-party provider. However, there are limitations on employer incentives to voluntarily provide documentation of vaccination by the employer or its agent. In this case, the incentive must not be “so substantial as to be coercive.” According to the EEOC, if the incentive is coercive or “very large,” then the employees are essentially being coerced into disclosing protected medical information to the employer (or its agent) through the pre-vaccination screening questions.
Incentives for Third Party v. Employer Vaccination of Employee’s Family Member
Employers may also offer incentives to employees to provide confirmation from a third party, such as a pharmacy or health department, that the employees’ family members have been vaccinated. Conversely, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) precludes employers from offering incentives to an employee to provide confirmation that an employee’s family member was vaccinated by the employer or its agent. According to the EEOC, pre-vaccination medical screening would include medical questions about the family member, which would then lead to the employer’s receipt of the employee’s genetic information.
Employer Vaccination of Employee’s Family Member with No Incentive
If the employer wants to offer vaccinations to an employee’s family members on a voluntary basis, without offering the employee an incentive, it may do so. In this case, the employer must take certain steps to comply with GINA. According to the EEOC, the employer must, “ensure that all medical information obtained from family members during the screening process is only used for the purpose of providing the vaccination, is kept confidential, and is not provided to any managers, supervisors, or others who make employment decisions for the employees. In addition, employers need to ensure that they obtain prior, knowing, voluntary, and written authorization from the family member before the family member is asked any questions about his or her medical conditions. If these requirements are met, GINA permits the collection of genetic information.”
As a general disclaimer, the employer should be aware that all vaccination information collected by the employer is confidential and should only be shared with other employees on a need to know basis. If you have questions about your company’s vaccine policy or incentive program, contact our Labor & Employment Law Group.
Safety First on the Fourth
Fourth of July is upon us, which means it’s time to get your grills and lawn chairs ready for a day of fun. This year, July 4th is likely to be a little “extra” as we emerge from the pandemic vaxed, relaxed, and ready to reconnect with family and friends. Sadly, July 4th turns out to be one of the worst days every year for accidents. Injuries and fires caused by alcohol, fireworks, and most tragically, drownings, lead to a large number of insurance and injury claims. Here are some safety tips and recommendations to ensure you can have a safe, healthy, and injury-free holiday.
Cooking: Keep it clean. One of the most common insurance claims on July 4th are cooking fires, and July is the peak month each year for grill fires (Source: NFPA). Cooking fires can arise from open flames from the grill or smoker, charcoal ash, and bonfires (mind your marshmallows!). Make sure to properly clean your grill before and after use. Keep all grills away from the house, never grill indoors, and never leave an open flame unattended. Finally, establish a safety zone to keep kids and pets away from the area.
Water safety: Have a plan. July 4th is a very popular day for water activities like boating and swimming. Boats, like cars, should not be operated by any person under the influence of alcohol. If you own a boat and plan to invite guests, make sure your boater’s insurance policy is up to date, and check for proper safety equipment like a fire extinguisher and life jackets. As always, follow all authorities that govern using fireworks, cooking, and consuming alcohol while on a boat.
If you have a pool, make sure gates are secure and that an adult is present at all times. Talk to your children, including older youth and teens, about water safety. Never leave any child, even those who can swim, unattended at a pool. If you are going to a community pool or beach, expect it to be crowded. Make sure lifeguards are on duty and designate a “water watcher” whose sole responsibility is to keep an eye on those who are in the water swimming.
Travel: Slow down. It is a morbid fact, but July 4th is one of the deadliest days on the road. Many people travel during the holiday to visit family, attend cookouts, and watch parades and fireworks. The increase in accidents, particularly fatal ones, can be attributed to this higher volume, but also the involvement of alcohol. To minimize your risk, travel at off-peak times, don’t use a cell phone or any other device while driving, and do not drive if you consumed any alcohol. Best tip of all is to slow down and drive defensively.
Fireworks: Leave it to the pros. Fireworks are synonymous with the Fourth. After last year’s festivities were canceled during the pandemic, 2021 is set to bring back large-scale firework displays and with it, the low-budget, backyard BBQ pyrotechnic. You should leave fireworks to the professionals, but if you decide to use sparklers or fireworks, exercise extreme caution. Keep children and pets at an extra-safe distance, ignite them in wide-open areas away from trees and houses, adhere to any state and local regulations, and never, under any circumstances, light fireworks off of your body.
If you have any safety tips or suggestions, please share them via our social pages! If you’re looking to be even better prepared before the holiday festivities begin, check out these resources:
- National Fire Protection Association – Grilling
- UNC Health – Avoiding and Treating Grill and Firework-Related Burns
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – Tips to Celebrate July 4th Safely
- National Safety Council – Independence Day Driving Facts
Have a safe & healthy Fourth of July.