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.