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Superpowers, Covid-19, and Job Interviews

June 04, 2021

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why? To date, this is still the oddest interview question I have ever been asked. Each company and interviewer have their own set of questions that they like to ask during an interview. Granted, some of these questions (like the one about superpowers) may seem funny but they must be tailored to comply with the law. There are a variety of topics that should and should not be discussed during the hiring process. The newest topic revolves around Covid-19. 

We once again are stepping into uncharted territory. As businesses reopen and society finds its new normal, the need for good employees is more critical than ever. The vaccine is enabling many businesses to reopen successfully.   Are employers allowed to ask a potential new hire about his/her vaccine status?  Let’s dive into what we know so far. 

First, we know that The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from asking applicants direct questions about a disability. Second, we know that The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has clarified that asking employees if they have received the COVID-19 vaccine is not a disability-related inquiry under the ADA, so employers can ask this direct question to a prospective employee.

A good first step in determining whether to ask a candidate about their vaccine status is for an employer to consider whether an applicant’s vaccination status is relevant to the job position for which the applicant is applying.  Also, does an employer have current Covid-19 policies in place? Finally, how is the employer handling current employee vaccine status?  If an employer has guidelines in place and determines that having employees vaccinated is a requirement for the workplace, then it may be appropriate to ask applicants their vaccination status. Follow-up questions, however, can guide you down a slippery slope and may devolve into unlawful inquiries into a disability or medical status, so any follow up questions are generally to be avoided. 

Like with most things in life, it is always better to be transparent about decisions and requirements.  Where employers require new employees to be vaccinated, letting applicants know this requirement in the job posting is wise.    In addition, keep in mind that the employer may need to provide accommodations to those who cannot receive the vaccine for disability, religious or other reasons that may support an exemption under law.   Finally, the Covid-19 vaccine can take up to 2 weeks to reach its full potential. This is important when thinking about start dates for new employees.

Feeling a little unsure of how to create COVID-19 protocols in your business? Want to make sure that your current employees are kept safe, and that you handle applicants in compliance with the laws? Give Earle & Freeman, PLC a call.  Oh, and if you are wondering, my superpower would be flying. Although I have a fear of heights, I do enjoy getting places quickly.   And getting my clients to where they need to be even quicker. 

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