Q1: Can we bring all employees back to the church office, but make the unvaccinated keep their masks on?

In most states, yes.* Currently the CDC suggests that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks in most places (some workplaces will be an exception, such as healthcare settings), but that non-fully vaccinated people should continue to wear masks and maintain social distance. OSHA has issued guidance that is in agreement with the CDC, as well as an Emergency Temporary Standard for healthcare. Additionally, some states or localities may have stricter mask requirements that should be followed. However, absent such requirements, having different rules for vaccinated vs. unvaccinated is acceptable since it is not based on a protected class.*

Treating these groups differently is generally not illegal employment discrimination* and employers should not think of it as treating employees more or less favorably, but simply as following current public health guidelines. This should also be emphasized when talking to employees about the different rules for those who are vaccinated or unvaccinated.

Keep in mind that some employees will be unvaccinated due to disability, pregnancy, or religious beliefs. Employers should be careful to ensure that these employees are not harassed because of their vaccination status (which will be obvious if they are required to wear a mask when fully vaccinated employees are not). While preventing harassment of any employee who is unvaccinated is a best practice to maintain morale and productivity in the workplace, employees who are unvaccinated for these particular reasons have protections under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

*Numerous bills have been introduced at the state level to make vaccination status a protected characteristic and it appears that some Governors may create protections via Executive Order (EO). So far only Montana’s law has passed, but it appears to prevent employers not only from excluding unvaccinated workers but also from asking them to wear masks if vaccinated employees don’t have to. The current EOs (as of May 27) do not appear to impact private employers. Employers should check for state law before making policies that treat vaccinated and unvaccinated workers differently.

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Clergy Financial Resources serves as a resource for clients to help analyze the complexity of clergy tax law, church payroll & HR issues. Our professionals are committed to helping clients stay informed about tax news, developments and trends in various specialty areas.

This article is intended to provide readers with guidance in tax matters. The article does not constitute, and should not be treated as professional advice regarding the use of any particular tax technique. Every effort has been made to assure the accuracy of the information. Clergy Financial Resources and the author do not assume responsibility for any individual’s reliance upon the information provided in the article. Readers should independently verify all information before applying it to a particular fact situation, and should independently determine the impact of any particular tax planning technique. If you are seeking legal advice, you are encouraged to consult an attorney.

For more information or if you need additional assistance, please use the contact information below.

Clergy Financial Resources
11214 86th Avenue N.
Maple Grove, MN 55369

Tel: (888) 421-0101 
Fax: (888) 876-5101
Email: clientservices@clergyfinancial.com


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