California Mandates COVID-19 Vaccinations/Testing For Healthcare and State Employees
As concerns mount over the highly contagious Delta variant and the recent uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, on July 26, 2021, Governor Newsom ordered California state workers, healthcare workers and other employees who work in “high-risk congregate settings” to get inoculated against COVID-19; otherwise, they must submit to weekly COVID-19 testing and wear masks.
Governor Newsom’s order covers employees of hospitals, nursing homes, dental and physician offices, and other healthcare settings. Healthcare facilities must comply with these requirements by August 23, 2021. Similarly, employees of state agencies will be required to comply by August 2, 2021. California is encouraging local governments and private employers to adopt similar mandates.
Likewise, on July 26, 2021, Mayor Bill de Blasio mandated that New York City’s 340,000 employees get vaccinated by no later than September 2021 or submit to weekly testing and wear masks while indoors. Mayor de Blasio’s most recent mandate comes one week after ordering all employees at city-run hospitals and clinics to get vaccinated. Employees who refuse to comply can be removed from their positions.
Also, on July 26, 2021, the Department of Veterans Affairs (“Department”) became the first federal agency to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for its 115,000 frontline healthcare workers. Per that mandate, patient-facing employees with the Department will have eight weeks to get the vaccine; otherwise, they will face stiff penalties, including dismissal.
The call for mandatory vaccination policies in the healthcare industry continues as healthcare organizations grapple with treating the increased number of cases and hospitalizations, while approximately half the population (including some healthcare workers) refuses to get vaccinated. Citing concerns over the rapid spread of the Delta variant, on July 26, 2021, the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and dozens of other healthcare groups called for mandatory vaccination policies for all healthcare employees. Many labor groups are countering by vowing to challenge all or portions of the orders as subjects of mandatory bargaining.
As this author blogged last month, on June 12, 2021, a federal judge in the Southern District of Texas dismissed a case filed by 116 hospital employees who challenged Houston Methodist Hospital’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy. As mandatory vaccination policies in the workplace continue to be a hot topic, employers contemplating mandatory vaccination and/or testing policies should confer with competent counsel to ensure that such policies are in accord with current guidance on this issue.
Dawn Irizarry specializes in advising and representing California healthcare employers. For questions about this article or to discuss industry-specific guidance, please reach out to her directly at email@example.com.