EEOC Hearing Focuses on COVID’s Impact on Workers’ Civil Rights and Incentives

April 30, 2021

Commission Chair Charlotte Burrows said, “Today’s testimony makes clear that, while the pandemic continues to have serious impacts on public health and our economy, it has also created a civil rights crisis for many of America’s workers.”

Witness testimony focused on the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on women and people of color in front-line retail and service jobs.  Other testimony noted the harmful effects of the pandemic on Asian Americans. 

Witness policy recommendations included:

  • Making COVID-19 an ADA disability, particularly for those with lingering aftereffects who cannot perform the same work they did before contracting the virus; and
  • Updating the 2017 EEOC harassment guidelines to include protecting employees from harassment related to the pandemic.

Are incentives allowed?  The commissioners asked questions related to workplace vaccine policies and the legal gray area regarding what kinds of incentives employers can legally offer workers to encourage vaccination.  GOP commissioner Janet Dhillon asked if employers are shying away from offering cash or other incentives because the EEOC has not provided any guidance on the issue.  Chair Burrows told one reporter that the EEOC is working on guidance and it intends to follow through on that goal.