Can Employers Require COVID-19 Vaccination?
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Can Employers Require COVID-19 Vaccination?

Whether employers can require employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccination is governed by state and federal laws protecting disabled employees. In California, employers can generally require employees to receive an FDA-approved vaccination in order to return to the workplace.

California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing provides in its Employment Information on COVID-19 pamphlet that employers may require employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccination so long as they do not discriminate or harass employees or job applicants based on a protected class characteristic or do reasonably accommodate a medical disability or sincerely held religious practices. Employers may also not retaliate against anyone for engaging in protected activity (such as requesting an accommodation not to receive the vaccination).

Additionally, under California law, employers may not typically question disability-related reasons for not being vaccinated, as making employees explain themselves could force them to disclose protected information, although they can ask you to obtain independent medical certification under certain circumstances.

However, employers may exclude unvaccinated employees from the workplace if their presence would pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others. Unvaccinated employees would then have to be granted accommodations to work from home, work away from others, or work different schedules, for example, if they had a valid reason for requesting an accommodation.

Can Employers Ask for Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination?

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employers may ask for proof of vaccination. This is not considered a disability-related inquiry or a religious creed-related inquiry because it is not invasive or discriminatory to show a vaccination card or answer a yes/no question about vaccination status.

However, under FEHA, employers may not ask for additional medical records because they could contain protected, disability-related information. This means that even if you must show your vaccination card as proof or answer a survey question about your vaccination status, you do not need to provide any additional medical information or records as part of that proof. In addition, your employer may not ask you any follow-up medical questions that would force you to reveal protected medical information. However, your employ may require you to obtain medical certification or see a different doctor under certain circumstances to substantiate your requested accommodation.

Talk to an Experienced Employment Lawyer Today

At King & Siegel LLP, we have helped hundreds of workers hold employers accountable through legal actions. If you believe you have been illegally forced to explain yourself or disclose protected medical information, our attorneys are here to help.

Need legal help? We provide free, confidential consultations to California workers. You should contact us as soon as possible to make sure your claim is still within the time limits set by law. If you have experienced employment discrimination, contact us today through our websiteor give us a call at (213) 465-4802 to schedule a free consultation.

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Julian Burns King graduated with honors from Harvard Law School and founded King & Siegel in 2018. As head of the Firm’s discrimination and harassment practice areas, she champions the rights of working parents and victims of workplace discrimination and harassment. She has been recognized as a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers annually since 2018 and has recovered tens of millions of dollars on behalf of her clients.

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