California Labor Laws in Light of Mandatory Covid-19 Vaccines

Earlier this month, the California Department of Public Health issued an order (the “Order”) directing certain workers who provide services or work in specified facilities to have their first dose of a one-dose regimen or their second dose of a two-dose regimen of the Covid-19 vaccine by September 30, 2021. While the COVID-19 pandemic remains a significant health concern, the mandate is causing many people to question the scope of control California employers have over their workers.

The Order applies to healthcare facilities such as acute care hospitals, nursing facilities, intermediate care facilities, psychiatric hospitals, adult day health care centers, ambulatory surgery centers, chemical dependency recovery hospitals, doctor offices, hospice facilities, and pediatric day health and respite care facilities. Unlike many other California employment laws, the Order applies to all “workers,” not just employees. Workers include paid and unpaid individuals who work in indoor settings where patients receive care or have access to for any reason.

The Order allows limited and narrow exceptions for qualifying medical reasons and religious beliefs. In these cases, the worker may decline the vaccine if they provide written proof from their treating medical doctor, nurse practitioner, or medical professional practicing under a physician’s license. Workers should be aware that the exemption does not require the healthcare provider to indicate the underlying medical condition. However, the statement should indicate the length of time the patient’s inability to receive the vaccine will be or whether the inability is permanent. Workers who receive the exemption must undergo weekly or biweekly testing and wear a mask.

California state and federal laws typically allow employers to mandate vaccines unless a qualifying medical or religious exemption exists. While most people understand the importance of quelling the effects of the pandemic and moving forward, there are concerns regarding employee and workers’ rights in the state.

While the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has answered some questions regarding employees’ rights, this is new territory for many workers in the state. Even though federal anti-discrimination laws do not prohibit employers from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations, employers must comply with the Americans Disabilities Act (ADA). Employers must still abide by the ADA, and mandates should be consistent with business necessity and job-related. If the vaccination screens out a worker with a disability, the employer must prove the risk the potential worker poses. Employers who fail to meet this standard may be subject to a California employment discrimination lawsuit.

Has Your California Employer Violated your Rights in the Workplace

If you believe your California employer has violated labor and employment laws, contact The Nourmand Law Firm. Our law firm has successfully fought for California workers’ rights for more than 20 years. The attorneys at our firm exclusively represent employees and workers in California employment claims involving discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful termination, retaliation, class actions, defamation, and wage and hour law violations. Our clients have obtained favorable results, including reinstatement, back pay, and punitive damages. To learn more, contact The Nourmand Law Firm at 800-700-9243 to schedule a free initial consultation with a California employment attorney on our team.

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