Religious Accommodation Requests From Mandatory Vaccine Policy: What are employers to do?

Michael J. Lombardino
Emily P. Harbison
Modinat “Abby” Kotun
Michael J. Lombardino | ReedSmith
Emily P. Harbison | ReedSmith
Modinat “Abby” Kotun | ReedSmith
On-Demand: October 22, 2021

$95.00 1 hour CLE

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Program Summary

Mandatory vaccine policies became even more of a scorching hot topic after the Biden Administration announced its Path Out of the Pandemic initiative. Some employees may have a legitimate medical reason for refusing a COVID-19 vaccine (e.g., an allergy to vaccine components). But what about an employee claiming to have a religious objection to taking the vaccine? Companies have seen an influx in requests for an exemption from a mandatory vaccine policy based on an employee’s sincerely held religious belief. In this webinar, speakers will discuss best practices for assessing religious exemption requests and determining what, if any, accommodation might allow employees to continue working without a vaccination.

Key topics to be discussed:

  • A recap of the “religious exemption”
  • Determining what a “sincerely held” religious belief means
  • Questioning the sincerity of an asserted religious belief
  • The difference between the “undue hardship” analysis under Title VII and the ADA
  • Issues to consider before denying a religious accommodation request based on undue hardship
  • Understanding the legal landscape based on some recent court decisions
  • Practical takeaways for employers

Date / Time: March 1, 2022

  • 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm Eastern
  • 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm Central
  • 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm Mountain
  • 11:00 am – 12:00 pm Pacific

Choose a format:

Live Video Broadcast/Re-Broadcast: Watch Program "live" in real-time, must sign-in and watch program on date and time set above. May ask questions during presentation via chat box. Qualifies for "live" CLE credit.

On-Demand Video: Access CLE 24/7 via on-demand library and watch program anytime. Qualifies for self-study CLE credit. On-demand versions are made available 5 business days after the original recording date and are viewable for up to one year.

Closed-captioning available


Michael J. Lombardino_ReedSmith_myLawCLEMichael J. Lombardino | ReedSmith

Michael is a senior associate in the firm’s Labor and Employment Group. Michael is board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He represents employers in a wide array of workplace disputes, ranging from high-stakes non-compete and misappropriation litigation to complex wage-and-hour, discrimination, retaliation, and similar employment-related claims. He is a talented litigator who delivers consistently exceptional results for clients in the energy, manufacturing, industrial, hospitality, shipping, and health care sectors.

Michael has served as lead counsel in all phases of employment litigation at the trial and appellate level in state and federal courts, in arbitrations, and before administrative judges and agencies. Michael has prevailed on the vast majority of dispositive motions filed on his clients’ behalf, including several reported cases. He has successfully defended every dispositive motion challenged on appeal. In addition to litigation, Michael regularly helps clients navigate complex workplace challenges involving disability and leave management, wage-and-hour disputes, workplace safety, whistleblower complaints, and high-risk terminations.

Michael works extensively with clients in developing and drafting employment contracts and restrictive covenant agreements, and developing programs to best protect clients’ confidential business information. Michael has significant experience in both prosecuting and defending actions involving breach of non-competition and non-solicitation agreements, employee raiding, misappropriation of confidential information, tortious interference with contract, unfair competition, and related business claims. He also has extensive experience handling class and complex litigation, including nationwide, high-stakes wage-and-hour disputes. He routinely provides preventive advice and counsel to employers wishing to limit their exposure to investigation and litigation under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and state laws that require employers to pay overtime and minimum wages to their employees.

Michael is dependable and results-oriented, combining instinct and experience to identify key issues quickly and drive early resolution. By focusing on each client’s specific business needs, goals and corporate culture, Michael strives to develop realistic, sensible, and cost-effective strategies to achieve the desired outcomes for his clients. Michael believes that sound advice consists not only of helping clients solve their legal problems, but also helping clients implement those solutions in a way that makes business and practical sense.

Emily P. Harbison_ReedSmith_myLawCLEEmily P. Harbison | ReedSmith

Emily is a partner in our Labor and Employment Group, based in the Houston office. She represents management in all aspects of labor and employment law, including counseling, litigation, and traditional labor law. Emily regularly advises clients regarding pay equity, diversity and inclusion, federal contract/OFCCP compliance, wrongful discharge, leave and accommodation, wage and hour issues, and on a variety of other issues under state and federal laws governing the employment relationship. She also counsels company management on independent contractor matters, exemption status under the FLSA, joint employer, covenants not to compete, employment agreements, and employee handbooks and policies.

In addition to her experience representing clients in traditional labor matters under the National Labor Relations Act and the Railway Labor Act, Emily has defended employers in matters involving wage and hour disputes and employment discrimination, including claims under Title VII of The Civil Rights Act, the FMLA, ADEA, ADA and the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act.

Her broader expertise includes advising clients on matters related to mergers and acquisitions and corporate reorganizations, including advising on due diligence, employee transfers, and negotiating and implementing such corporate transactions.

Modinat “Abby” Kotun_ReedSmith_myLawCLEMadinat “Abby” Kotun | ReedSmith

Abby is an associate in the firm’s Labor and Employment Group. Abby is board certified in labor and employment law and represents clients in a wide variety of labor and employment matters, including general employment counseling; defense of discrimination charges and lawsuits; and trade secret, unfair competition, and wage and hour litigation. She has experience representing employers before the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC).

Before starting her legal career, Abby formerly worked for a major energy company as a process engineer, pipeline project manager, and business analyst. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Houston Law Center, and while in law school, interned for a federal bankruptcy judge, served as the Internet Publishing Editor of the Houston Law Review, and volunteered as a student attorney in the civil and immigration clinics. She enjoys giving back through pro bono work and has represented individuals referred through Kids in Need of Defense (“KIND”) and the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program (“HVLP”).


I. A recap of the “religious exemption” | 2:00 pm – 2:08 pm
II. Determining what a “sincerely held” religious belief means | 2:08 pm – 2:18 pm
III. Questioning the sincerity of an asserted religious belief | 2:18 pm – 2:26 pm
IV. The difference between the “undue hardship” analysis under Title VII and the ADA | 2:26 pm – 2:36 pm
V. Issues to consider before denying a religious accommodation request based on unduehardship | 2:36 pm – 2:45 pm
VI. Understanding the legal landscape based on some recent court decisions | 2:45 pm – 2:53 pm
VII. Practical takeaways for employers | 2:53 pm – 3:00 pm