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DFEH Gives Greenlight To Mandatory Vaccinations In The Workplace
Mar 12, 2021

DFEH Gives Greenlight To Mandatory Vaccinations In The Workplace

Topics: COVID-19, Legal Information

A few weeks ago, we blogged that California employers have a strong argument for requiring that employees obtain a COVID-19 vaccination, especially when in-person attendance is necessary for the job.  See our previous blog.  Last week, California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) released new guidance giving the greenlight to California employers to proceed with mandatory vaccination programs.  Specifically, on March 4, 2021, the DFEH updated its (COVID guidance) to express the opinion that “[u]nder the [Fair Employment and Housing Act], an employer may require employees to receive an FDA-approved vaccination against COVID-19 infection so long as the employer does not discriminate against or harass employees or job applicants on the basis of a protected characteristic, provides reasonable accommodations related to disability or sincerely-held religious beliefs or practices, and does not retaliate against anyone for engaging in protected activity (such as requesting a reasonable accommodation).”  

The DFEH goes on to provide more in-depth treatment of the issues surrounding a mandatory vaccination program.  Most notably, an employer is not required to accommodate an employee who refuses vaccination given a general belief that the “vaccine isn’t safe”, without a sincerely-held religious belief or disability.  In other words, an employer may restrict the employee’s ability to work, unless one of those two exceptions is in play.  The Guidance additionally provides information with respect to the gathering of medical information related to the vaccination, depending on whether the vaccination program is administered by the employer or by a third-party.

Given the DFEH guidance, employers have a strong argument to require vaccination, when job-related and consistent with business necessity and while engaging with employees about the potential conflict between public health and religious practice and/or to reasonably accommodate a disability, but should they?  This is a business decision that should be made in consultation with your favorite CDF attorney.  

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For over 25 years, CDF has distinguished itself as one of the top employment, labor and immigration firms in California, representing employers in single-plaintiff and class action lawsuits and advising employers on related legal compliance and risk avoidance. We cover the state, with five locations from Sacramento to San Diego.

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About the Editor in Chief

Sacramento Office Managing Partner and Chair of CDF’s Traditional Labor Law Practice Group. Mark has been practicing labor and employment law in California for thirty years. His practice has a special emphasis on the representation of California employers in union-management relations and handling federal and state court litigation and administrative matters triggered by all types of employment-related disputes. He is also adept at providing creative and practical legal advice to help minimize the risks inherent in employing workers in California. He recently named “Sacramento Lawyer of the Year” in Employment Law-Management for 2021 by Best Lawyers®.
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