Employers can offer incentives to employees to get vaccinated for Covid-19, according to new guidance from the federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.
Companies administering vaccines to employees also may offer incentives as long as the incentives are not "coercive," the EEOC said.
In December the EEOC said that companies can legally mandate that all employees re-entering the workplace and new hires be vaccinated for Covid-19. But there are two exemptions companies must allow for, according to the EEOC: a disability or religious reasons.
In its updated guidance released Friday, the EEOC now says employers are permitted to offer incentives to employees who voluntarily provide information they've been vaccinated by a third party — and that there is no limit to the size of those incentives.
For example, workers at both McDonalds corporate headquarters and restaurants will get up to four hours of paid time off to get vaccinated. Employees at Bolthouse Farms will get a $500 bonus if vaccinated. And at Kroger, employees will get a one-time payment of $100 if they show proof of vaccination.
However, the EEOC's guidance says that if employers obtain employee vaccination information, they "must keep vaccination information confidential."
If the employer plans to administer the vaccine itself, the EEOC says incentives must not be large enough to be considered "coercive."
"Because vaccinations require employees to answer pre-vaccination disability-related screening questions, a very large incentive could make employees feel pressured to disclose protected medical information," the EEOC's guidance stated.
Employers are legally permitted to provide employees and their family members with educational information about Covid-19 vaccines, raise awareness about the benefits, and address common questions and concerns, the EEOC said.