January 14, 2021
Stalking is a serious, prevalent, and dangerous crime that impacts every community in the United States. While awareness and public discussion of intimate partner violence and sexual assault have increased in recent years, stalking
remains frequently misunderstood and rarely discussed – both within the fields of domestic and sexual violence and among the broader general public.
January is National Stalking Awareness Month (NSAM)! Stalking is a prevalent crime that often co-occurs with — and increases the risks of — domestic and dating violence. Over half of stalkers are (current or former) intimate partners.
Stalking is a terrifying and psychologically harmful crime in its own right as well as a predictor of lethality. On average, intimate partner stalkers are the most threatening and dangerous type of stalker, and stalking increases the risk of intimate partner homicide by three times.
Stalking is a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that causes fear. Many abusers stalk their partners both during the relationship and after the relationship has ended as an extension of coercive control.
Though millions of men and women are stalked every year in the United States – with a frequent co-occurrence of domestic violence — the crime of stalking is often misunderstood, minimized and/or ignored.
We all have a role to play in identifying stalking and supporting victims and survivors. Learn more at www.stalkingawareness.org about stalking and how you can help stop it!
May employers require employees (or clients) to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available?
The law allows employers to require employees to take a COVID19 vaccine, although we suggest you strongly recommend rather than require the vaccine to avoid legal pitfalls around medical and religious exemptions.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published guidance on December 16, 2020, confirming employers who require their employees to take a COVID-19 vaccine will not violate the law, specifically the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, there are exemptions under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to this allowance making a recommendation standard, rather than requirement, lower risk for your organization.
Note that while you can encourage clients to get vaccinated, in no circumstances should you require vaccination as a screening criterion to determine eligibility for programming and housing.
If an employer mandates a vaccine and an employee indicates they cannot receive one because of a disability what should an employer do?
Employers must conduct individualized assessments when an employee cannot take the vaccine due to disability.
If an employer requires COVID-19 vaccinations when they are available and an employee says they are unable to get the vaccine due to a disability, the employer must conduct an individualized assessment of four factors to determine if a direct threat exists if the employee does not take the vaccine. A direct threat is a “significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual or to others that cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.” Factors that should be considered when determining if a direct threat exists are:
The EEOC confirms that “a direct threat would include a determination that an unvaccinated individual will expose others to the virus at the worksite.” (Dec. 16, 2020).
If an unvaccinated employee would pose a direct threat, the employer cannot necessarily terminate employment. If possible, the employer must provide a reasonable accommodation to the unvaccinated employee that would remove or reduce the risk of the unvaccinated employee from creating a direct threat. Such accommodations must be made so long as doing so will not cause the employer an undue hardship, which is defined by the EEOC as a significant difficulty or expense. The EEOC notes that “the prevalence in the workplace of employees who already have received a COVID-19 vaccination and the amount of contact with others, whose vaccination status could be unknown, may impact the undue hardship consideration.” (Dec. 16, 2020).
When an employee needs an accommodation, the employer should make sincere attempts to have a flexible and interactive process to figure out what accommodation options work best for the employee and the employer. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) website offers some helpful resources in exploring accommodations at the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic: https://askjan.org/topics/COVID-19.cfm.
If the accommodation would not eliminate or reduce the direct threat, then the employer may stop the employee from physically coming into the workplace. However, the employer cannot automatically fire the employee. Instead, the employer must consider whether the employee may carry out work duties remotely. The employer should use the same analysis as they would in the event an employee contracted COVID-19 or were displaying symptoms. Some workers may be entitled to work remotely or take leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, under the FMLA, or under the employer’s other personnel policies.
What if an employee says they will not receive the vaccine because of their religious beliefs?
Employers must offer reasonable accommodations to employees who will not receive the COVID-19 vaccine because of a sincerely held religious belief, unless it would pose an undue hardship under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Such an accommodation should not create an undue hardship for the employer. “Undue hardship” is defined under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act “as having more than a de minimis cost or burden on the employer.” (Dec. 16, 2020 EEOC guidance). “De minimis” means lacking significance or importance. It is important to note that the meaning and standard of “undue hardship” is different for religion than it is for disability. The standard for undue hardship is lower and easier to meet for religion than disability.
The EEOC states, “because the definition of religion is broad and protects beliefs, practices, and observances with which the employer may be unfamiliar, the employer should ordinarily assume that an employee’s request for religious accommodation is based on a sincerely held religious belief.” However, if the employer has an objective reason to question either the religious nature or the sincerity of the expressed religious belief, practice, or observance, the employer may request additional information about the employee’s religious belief preventing them from receiving the vaccine.
For more information:
The above information was gathered from the EEOC’s website and COVID-19 guidance published on December 16, 2020: https://www.eeoc.gov/wysk/what-you-should-know-about-covid-19-and-ada-rehabilitation-act-and-other-eeo-laws. If you need any additional information or guidance, please do not hesitate to contact the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence by emailing: email@example.com.
Molly Kafka, Social Change Attorney
Three Things to reach out to me for:
Enhancing the Safety of Individuals Impacted by Stalking
Tuesday, January 26, 1pm-2:30pm MT / 12noon-1:30pm PT
The Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence invites you to join a FREE webinar with Jennifer Landhuis, Director of Stalking Prevention Awareness, & Resource Center.
Stalking is prevalent, dangerous, and often misunderstood. This webinar explores strategies to assess risk and promote victim safety, focusing on the diverse tactics stalkers may utilize. We will also discuss the intersection of stalking with domestic violence and sexual assault, documentation strategies, and safety options for individuals experiencing stalking.
By the end of the webinar, participants will be better able to:
Apply strategies for working with individuals impacted by stalking.
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