Three Things to Know about Your COVID19 Vaccination Mandate Options
Especially with the recent FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine, there is a lot of confusion surrounding COVID19 vaccination mandates and your options as an employer or employee. To start, here are the three top things you should know regarding vaccine mandates and your options:
- 1. Your employer CAN require that you disclose your vaccination status.
Your employer has the right to ask you to disclose your vaccination status. Disclosing your status could involve signing a form confirming that you received the vaccine or a simple verbal interaction. The most information that you are required to give your employer on this matter is a “yes” or “no” answer. Any explanation or additional questioning is not within an employer’s rights. Your reasonings are protected in this context.
Employers have always had a vested interest in maintaining the health of their employees because illnesses can get in the way of a business’s interests in a variety of ways. For example, sick employees can decrease productivity or jeopardize client health. COVID19 is no exception. Therefore, business owners have the right to protect the business they are in charge of by confirming their employees’ vaccination statuses.
As an employee, you also maintain the right to refuse to share your vaccination status. (You may also simply state that you are unvaccinated.) However, there are consequences for doing so. Employees that do not disclose their vaccination status are automatically flagged as unvaccinated individuals. As a result, they will undergo the procedures for unvaccinated individuals in the workplace. Procedures might look like providing a weekly negative COVID test, working from home, social distancing, or wearing a mask. The decision depends on what would work best for your position.
- 2. Your employer CAN mandate vaccines in the workplace.
The legislative bodies in California are currently in full support of mandating vaccines. Again, it is the job of the business owner to do what they think will best protect their business. So, it comes down to the decision of the employer to make this call.
Court cases in California are still pending concerning the protocol when an employee fails to comply with a vaccine mandate. For example, an employee may feel that their rights are violated by a vaccination mandate and refuse to get one. For the time being, there is no clear-cut answer to this scenario. However, national trends suggest that the courts will be in support of state decisions to mandate vaccines.
Depending on your place of business, there may be an option to provide a weekly negative COVID test, work from home, social distance, or wear a mask at work instead of getting the vaccine.
- 3. You can be exempt for a disability, health, or religious reason.
One of the ways employees can be exempt from vaccine mandates is through medical exemptions. Employers are not authorized to ask you specific questions regarding your health history. This information is confidential and protected. Your claim for a medical exemption must be accompanied by a doctor’s note. The doctor’s note needs to be from a qualified medical professional who is currently seeing you as their patient. Without going into any of the private information about your health history, the note should say that your doctor advises you not to get the vaccine and that you are qualified for a medical exemption, in their professional opinion. It is not necessary to include the reasons why.
Another reason why you may be exempt from a vaccination mandate is due to a religious belief. Your employer cannot argue that your religion is invalid or untrue. However, they can question the sincerity of your beliefs held under that religion. It is important to provide support for your religious belief such as through your religion’s texts, leaders, or organizations. These tokens solidify your sincerity in holding the religious beliefs that you provided as your reason for exemption. It shows that you are genuinely dedicated and are qualified for a religious exemption to the vaccine mandate. Nonetheless, providing evidence is not required for a religious exemption. Your employer cannot ask for these things, they are simply tools to support your cause.
Your employer is required to take you seriously if you claim to need a religious exemption. You and your employer are to sit down and conduct an interactive process to reach an agreement. This agreement will settle how you will be accommodated in your religious exemption from the vaccine that both parties are comfortable with. Again, this could consist of providing a weekly negative COVID test, working from home, social distancing, wearing a mask at work, and more.
Keep in mind that the rules and regulations surrounding the COVID19 vaccine mandates vary by state. This information applies to the current situation in California. The protocols are evolving day by day, so stay tuned for updates and additional information. If you have questions or concerns, as always, feel free to contact us at (916) 851-1900 or firstname.lastname@example.org for a consultation.