As vaccine availability grows so do the suggestions and regulations from the state and federal government. Just recently California’s DFEH (Department of Fair Employment and Housing) released their new guidance on vaccine regulation and what rights employees have surrounding the vaccine.
One big question that a lot of employers have had is whether or not they can require their employees to get the vaccine. The short answer is yes. However, that yes comes with several exceptions that you should be aware of. As an employer, you can require an at-will employee to get the vaccine, but you must still respect religious and disability related accommodations.
Working through these accommodations with your employees can be tricky. It is important that this process is an interactive one and doesn’t cause undue hardship for the employee. Documentation during this time is key. You, as an employer, must be sure you are offering accommodations such as, working from home, job reassignment, or modification of worksite safeguards that enable the employee to work without endangering the employee or others. If these reasonable accommodations cannot be met, the employee may be removed from the workplace. It is also important to know that there are higher standards for disability accommodations than there are for religious accommodations.
If an employee refuses to get a vaccine without a religious reason or disability, then reasonable disciplinary actions can be taken, but it is important to make sure that these actions don’t become retaliation. You may not retaliate against an employee who alleges that the employer’s vaccination policy discriminates on the basis of a protected characteristic, such as race or national origin, or has a disparate impact on a protected group. This is a complicated situation and should be handled carefully and with plenty of documentation.
Furthermore, there are plenty of guidelines around the documentation of vaccination records. Employers can ask for proof of vaccination, but are protocols you, as an employer, must take to protect that information under the CCPA as it is a confidential medical record. Check out our article about cyber liability and how to stay compliant under the CCPA to avoid fines and penalties for putting your employee’s personal information at risk.
If you are looking to require your employees to be vaccinated, that is legally allowed, but it is vital that you make sure you are keeping up with and abiding by all the requirements and documenting this process with each of your employees. This is a huge task that is growing with every new regulation.
Our partnership with OutlookHR can help. We keep you up to date on what’s happening federally and in the State of California. We make it easy to make decisions like this and follow through with this process while keeping each employee’s individual needs in mind.
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