COVID-19 Update
November 2, 2021
Updated EEOC Guidance on Religious Objections to COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated their guidance regarding the consideration of employee exemption requests based on religious beliefs. These updates are available here under subsection L
This guidance primarily focuses on recommending some best practices to employers, such as encouraging employers to provide clear policies and procedures to their employees who are requesting a religious accommodation. The updated guidance also states that employers are permitted to make appropriate factual inquiries and/or requests for additional information about a religious request if there is an objective basis for questioning the religious nature or the sincerity of a particular belief. However, the EEOC does note that a religious belief should not be assumed to be insincere because it deviates from commonly followed tenants of the employee's religion, or because the employee follows some but not all common practices of their religion. 
The guidance addresses an employer's continuing obligation to evaluate changing circumstances when determining whether granting an exception would cause an undue hardship. This means that an employer can revoke or discontinue previously granted accommodations.
Additionally, the EEOC released a copy of their internal form designed for their own workplace as an example. A copy of this form is available here
Federal Extension of Public Health Emergency 
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) again renewed the determination that a federal public health emergency exists as a result of COVID-19. This renewal continues the federal PHE for 90 days. HHS has continued to renew the PHE for almost two years. 
The renewal of the federal PHE means that the OPWDD flexibilities that are in effect for the duration of, and in some cases 6-months post, the PHE will continue to be available to providers. Most notably, the provisions of 21-ADM-02 pertaining to Community Habilitation-R are not yet in effect and, barring any change, would not be available until July 2022. 
COVID-19 Designation as an Airborne Infectious Disease under NYS Hero Act Extended
On October 31, the commissioner of the NYS Department of Health renewed the designation of COVID-19 as a highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health under New York State's HERO Act through December 15, 2021. All workplace safety plans and other requirements of the HERO Act remain in place until the expiration of this designation. 
For more information on the HERO Act, please refer to the September 9, 2021 COVID update.
OSHA Fact Sheet on Whistleblower Complaints Related to COVID-19 
OSHA issued a new fact sheet detailing protections for employees who report workplace health and safety concerns related to COVID-19. The fact sheet also includes other information for whistleblowers. The fact sheet outlines who is protected and what activities are protected as well as the deadline to file a claim.

This and all related updates will be cataloged on The Arc New York COVID-19 Resource Page for future reference. Please contact us if you have questions regarding any of this information.
CONTACT: Josh Christiana, Director for Quality, Compliance & Chapter Relations
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