The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) released updated employment guidance related to COVID-19 (coronavirus) on March 4, 2021, including mandatory vaccination policies. DFEH Employment Information on COVID-19 replaces previous guidance issued March 20, 2020 and July 24, 2020.
The DFEH says you may implement mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies requiring employees to receive an FDA-approved vaccine. However, you must reasonably accommodate employees’ disabilities or sincerely held religious beliefs or practices, and you cannot discriminate against or harass employees or applicants on the basis of a protected characteristic, or retaliate against them for engaging in protected activity (such as requesting a reasonable accommodation). You may exclude an employee who refuses a COVID-19 vaccine from the workplace if you can demonstrate that accommodating their refusal would impose an undue hardship or endanger the health and safety of the employee or others, or that the employee would be unable to perform their essential duties even with reasonable accommodations. Reasonable accommodation must be looked at based on the specific facts of each case. If the employee’s reason for objecting to an FDA-approved vaccine isn’t related to the employee’s disability or religious belief, you’re not legally required to accommodate them.
Tips: Read the full DFEH guidance for more detail on mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations and other topics including medical inquiries, protective equipment, visible COVID-19 symptoms, job-protected leave, and vulnerable populations. Contact your Vigilant Law Group employment attorney before denying a reasonable accommodation request or claiming undue hardship against a request.