Employment Law/mandatory vaccination and religious exemption
Expert: Margaret M. deMarteleire - 8/4/2013
Question I have received a religious exemption from mandatory vaccination for the past two years from my employer. I have complied with the accomodation of wearing a surgical mask during my hospital shifts from December to March. This year they are trying to make religious exemptions conditional on your practicing an organized religion and presenting a sworn statment from the leader of your congregation.
My questions are: 1. Once your employer has granted an exemption previously and you have complied with the accomodations, do you legally have to keep applying for the exemption every flu season? My employer routinely denies the first couple of everyone's attempts at securing a religious exemption, and it is very stressful to go through months of thinking your going to lose your job before you get a final answer. 2. Does increasing the burden of proof on an employee that has already been granted an exemption constitute harassment?
Answer Cheryl - It is not unreasonable for an employer to request evidence of genuine religious belief in order to support a religious exemption. From your question, it seems that no proof has been requested until now. Asking for evidence of membership in an organized religion is not increasing the burden of proof, if no proof has been needed before. The law allows employers to request supporting information for myriad exemptions from the ordinary work rules -- medical, physical, etc. -- and religion is no exception. If you want special treatment, you have to show that you are legally entitled to receive it.