Senate Bill 95 – Vaccination Gives Hope to Businesses

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As vaccinations pick up, and the hope that everyone who wants a vaccine will have one by summer, California continues its attempt at staying nimble in its approach. This includes recent changes to Senate Bill 95 that will help guide the increased return to work and re-opening in the state.

The first change is one that carries forward an issue that has impacted businesses and employment throughout the pandemic. A reminder that it will be some time yet before things return to normal. This came in the form of Governor Gavin Newsom signing Senate Bill 95, which retroactively enacts supplemental paid sick leave for providers of in-home supportive and/or waiver personal care services.

More broadly, and more directly impacting the current state of the pandemic, is the state seeming to clear a path toward employees being able to mandate their employees obtain a vaccine. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission initially updated its pandemic guidance indicating an employer may require an employee to obtain a vaccine so long as the employer does not discriminate against the employee in doing so.

Subsequently, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing updated its employment FAQs and stated that an employer may mandate employees receive a vaccination “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.”

These clarifications appear to clear the way for employers to require their employees to obtain the vaccine, subject to the exceptions indicated. Vaccine hesitancy alone then will not be enough. Going forward, it will be important to watch how companies proceed and whether a certain level of mandatory vaccination comes into place for employers.

With the constant changes that can impact a business, an experienced legal team can help navigate a difficult time for businesses, particularly with the ever-changing landscape for companies during the current crisis.