Can California Employers Require You To Get Vaccinated?
Employers have many reasons for wanting employees to get vaccinated. Particularly in service industry jobs and front-line positions, vaccinations can reduce liability for employers by protecting both customers and employees. However, even in office settings, vaccines provide protection for immuno-compromised employees and protect against the spread of an infection in an enclosed space that could quickly leave the employer without a workforce. Of course, employees may have their own reasons for not wanting to be vaccinated. It’s become a hot topic of debate as to whether employers can legally require their employees to get vaccinated or if they can even ask about it. In short, the answer is yes, they can.
Employers Can Ask Whether Employees Have Been Vaccinated
Many people falsely believe that it is a violation of HIPPA law for employers (or airlines, schools, etc.) to ask about their vaccine status. However, this is not how HIPPA works. HIPPA in no way prevents or protects against the voluntary disclosure of a vaccine status. It also does not prevent anyone from asking you about it. Employers have legitimate business reasons for asking whether you are vaccinated. They should be careful though not to overstep into protected or potentially discriminatory territory. While it is legal to ask a yes or no question “Have you been vaccinated against Covid-19?” It potentially opens the door to the disclosure of protected statuses, such as disability and religion, by asking a follow-up question, such as “If no, why?” This could open employers up to liability if they then choose not to hire an applicant who disclosed their reason not to be vaccinated, or if they take detrimental action against an existing employee for the same reason. So, it’s important to be cognizant of this line.
Employers Can Require Employees to Get Vaccinated
California employers can require employees to get vaccinated. However, this is not without exception. Employees with disabilities that prevent them from getting the vaccine and employees who cannot get vaccines due to sincerely held religious beliefs are protected by various state and federal statutes. Employers are not required to let these employees back in the office though. Rather, reasonable accommodations must be made available for employees who are unable to meet the vaccination requirement. For many jobs, a reasonable accommodation will be working remotely. For other positions, where this is not possible, wearing a mask or social distancing may be required. The reasonable accommodations that are available will depend entirely on the business. However, reasonable accommodations must be reasonable, as suggested by the name. Accommodations may not be available in all fields of professions, but every effort should be made to consider alternatives that would allow the employee to still perform their duties safely.
Talk to a San Jose Employment Lawyer
If you are facing employment discrimination or have faced detrimental consequences as the result of a protected status in the workplace, the San Jose employment discrimination lawyers at Costanzo Law Firm are here to help. Call today to schedule a personalized consultation and find out how we will fight to get you the compensation and support that you are entitled to.