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EEOC says employers can require vaccines, but those who do could still be sued

“While it helps employers, it can also hurt them if they don’t heed the warning that this is limited only to discrimination issues,” said KHOU's legal analyst.

HOUSTON — Health officials see vaccines as the key to returning to office safely, but employers requiring them involves complicated legal issues.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued new COVID-19 guidance saying employers are not prevented from mandating vaccinations, as long as medical and religious exemptions are in place. The guidance also says employers can offer incentives to encourage people to get the shot.

KHOU 11 Legal analyst Carmen Roe says it’s important to remember the EEOC is limited to federal discrimination laws. There are other federal and state laws that complicate mandating vaccines.

You may have heard more than 100 healthcare workers are suing Houston Methodist for requiring vaccinations.

RELATED: 117 employees sue Houston Methodist over COVID-19 vaccine requirement

That lawsuit involves wrongful termination claims under federal and state law.

“Privacy issues are not covered under this guidance. That’s a big issue everybody has been debating, how the courts are going to decide issues associated with turning over medical records, with requiring people to turn over medical records, etc.,” said Roe.

Although new EEOC guidance is a big deal, Roe says there’s still a lot of legal gray area when it comes to vaccines that will have to play out in court.

“While it helps employers, it can also hurt them if they don’t heed the warning that this is limited only to discrimination issues,” said Roe.