In Connecticut, private businesses can enforce their own vaccine mandate policies as long as they allow reasonable accommodations for protected disability (medical conditions) and religious beliefs. However, companies have to also participate in interaction processes to see if there are feasible ways to accommodate these exemption requests without causing “undue” harm to their businesses. 


What are Protected Religious Beliefs?


The law protects those with “sincerely held” religious beliefs. According to the EEOC, these address ultimate questions on life, purpose and death along with theistic and non-theistic moral ethical/ moral beliefs on right and wrong. Religious beliefs also generally include concepts about God. 


Atheism, for example can, fit under this criterion, in addition to Christianity, Judaism and other major world religions as a protected religious belief


However, it should also be noted that protected religious beliefs do not have to be associated with any established, recognized religion. Also, they do not have to be accepted by other people.


What Does It Mean for A Protected Religious Belief to Be Sincerely Held?


According to the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), “sincerely held” religious beliefs are “moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right or wrong which are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views.”


What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws | U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (eeoc.gov)



What If an Employee Belongs to A Religion That Does Not Outright Oppose Getting Vaccinated?


If the employee belongs to a religion that doesn’t overly prohibit or oppose vaccination, they can still hold individual beliefs and interpretations about this topic (within the context of their religion). These personal beliefs are still valid and legally protected. 

 

What Protected Religious Beliefs Are Not


Protected belief systems do not include:

 

  • personal preferences

  • moral beliefs

  • non-religious ideologies

  • economic, political or social philosophies


These types of personal paradigms do not involve ultimate ideas about God, purpose, life and death and will not qualify for religion-based exemptions

 

Federal Law Prevents Employers from Discriminating Against Employees Due to Religious Beliefs



Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from being discriminated against at work based on race, sex, color, religion and national origin. 


An employer cannot discriminate against an employee who does not want to get vaccinated due to religious reasons through job termination. They have to offer reasonable accommodation by considering their exemption requests.


Examples of accommodating an employee with an exemption may include:


  1. allowing them to work remotely from home

  2. having them wear face masks and social distancing while at work. 

 


The Right for Companies to Consider Undue Hardships to Their Business 


Employers must engage in an interactive process with employees who request religion-based exemptions. They can decide if granting an exemption would pose an undue hardship for their business and the safety of their company, customers, patients etc. 


In other words, businesses are not obligated to grant religious exemptions if they have reasonably determined that taking this course of action would result in causing undue harm to their finances or the health of their organization.