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26 Aug

August 2021 California HR Legal Updates

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California Department of Public Health Issues Vaccine Mandate for Healthcare Workers

Update Applicable to:
Employers in California with employees in the healthcare facilities listed below.

What happened?
On August 5, 2021, the California Department of Public Health issued an order on COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

What are the details?
The order requires all healthcare workers to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by September 30, 2021, but has narrow exemptions for medical reasons or religious beliefs. The order applies to any “Health Care Facilities” that are defined as the following:

  • General Acute Care Hospitals
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities (including Subacute Facilities)
  • Intermediate Care Facilities
  • Acute Psychiatric Hospitals
  • Adult Day Health Care Centers
  • Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) and PACE Centers
  • Ambulatory Surgery Centers
  • Chemical Dependency Recovery Hospitals
  • Clinics and Doctor Offices (including behavioral health, surgical)
  • Congregate Living Health Facilities
  • Dialysis Centers
  • Hospice Facilities
  • Pediatric Day Health and Respite Care Facilities
  • Residential Substance Use Treatment and Mental Health Treatment Facilities

The covered individuals include those, paid and unpaid, who work in any indoor setting where care is provided to patients, or patients have access for any purpose.  The order specifically states that contract staff not employed by the health care facility and persons not involved in patient care, but who could be exposed to infectious agents (e.g., clerical, volunteers, laundry, security, facilities management, administrative, etc.) are covered by the order.

Workers may be exempted from the vaccination requirement only when providing the health care facility with a sign declination form stating that the worker is declining vaccination based on religious beliefs, or the worker is excused from receiving the vaccine for a qualifying medical reason. To be eligible for a qualifying medical reason, the worker must provide a signed statement from a physician, nurse practitioner or “other licensed medical professional practicing under the license of a physician” stating that the individual qualifies for the exemption and indicating the probable duration of the worker’s inability to receive the vaccine.   The statement should not disclose the underlying medical condition.

Individuals exempt from the vaccine requirement (due to religious beliefs or a qualified medical reason) must test for COVID-19 twice weekly if they work in acute health care or long-term care setting and once weekly in all other settings. In addition, they must also wear a surgical mask or higher-level respirator, such as an N95 mask, at all times while in the facility.

The healthcare facility must maintain vaccination records (name, date, vaccine type, and date of administration) or exemption status and keep copies of unvaccinated worker declination forms.  Records of any regular testing required for exempt individuals must also be maintained.

The order is available here.

An article on the order is found here.

What do employers need to do?
Covered employers should review the order to take the required actions in their employee vaccination efforts to remain in compliance with the state of California. The law firm, CDF Labor Law LLP, recommends that counsel should be consulted for employers with exempt employees before a health care facility inquires into an employee’s claimed medical reason or “religious belief” underlying the declination.


Vaccination Verification Required in San Francisco

Update Applicable to:
Employers in San Francisco with businesses described below.

What happened?
On August 12, 2021, the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SDPH) issued a revised health order regarding vaccination.

What are the details?
The order, effective immediately, covers the following businesses:

  • Operators or hosts of establishments or events where food or drink is served indoors, including but not limited to, dining establishments, bars, clubs, theaters, and entertainment venues.
  • Gyms, recreation facilities, yoga studios, dance studios, other fitness establishments, where patrons engage in cardiovascular, aerobic, strength training or other exercise involving elevated breathing.

The order requires the businesses to implement a vaccine verification for patrons and the vaccination status of staff by August 20, 2021. It also requires businesses to ensure that all staff who routinely work onsite provide proof of full vaccination by October 13, 2021, before entering or working in any indoor portion of the facility. Individuals who enter or work in a covered business on an intermittent or occasional basis for short periods of time are not required to provide proof of vaccination.

When checking proof of vaccination, businesses must crosscheck proof against each patron’s photo identification. Acceptable proof of vaccination includes:

  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) vaccination card (physical, digital, or picture of the card).
  • Documentation from a healthcare provider.
  • A personal digital COVID-19 vaccine record issued by the State of California or by an approved private company.

The order can be read here.

An article on the order can be read here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers in the covered businesses should review the revised order and update any applicable vaccination verification policies to comply with the newly mandated order.


California Teachers Required to be Vaccinated or Tested for COVID-19

Update Applicable to:
All employers in California with employees in public and private schools as teachers or school staff serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

What happened?
On August 11, 2021, the California Department of Public Health issued a public health order regarding COVID-19 vaccinations and testing for teachers.

What are the details?
The order, effective August 12, 2021, requires vaccinations for education staff and for schools to be in compliance by October 15, 2021, in order to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.  It applies to public and private schools serving students in transitional kindergarten through grade 12. It does not apply to childcare, home schools, or higher education.

All covered schools must verify the vaccine status of all workers by one of the following acceptable proofs of vaccination:

  • COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card (issued by the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or WHO Yellow Card) which includes the vaccinated person’s name, type of vaccine provided, and the date the last dose was administered).
  • A photo of a Vaccination Record Card as a separate document.
  • A photo of the client’s Vaccination Record Card stored on a phone or electronic device.
  • Documentation of COVID-19 vaccination from a health care provider.
  • Digital record including a QR code that when scanned by a SMART Health Card reader displays to the reader client name, date of birth, vaccine dates and vaccine type.
  • Documentation of vaccination from other contracted employers who follow these vaccination records guidelines and standards.

Schools are required to have a plan in place to track verified worker vaccination statuses and records of vaccination verification must be made available upon request to the local health jurisdiction for the case investigation. Fully vaccinated is defined in the order as two weeks after receiving the second dose in a two-dose series or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine.

Workers who are not fully vaccinated, or whose vaccination status is unknown, or documentation is not provided, must be considered unvaccinated. Those that are asymptomatic unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated workers are required to undergo diagnostic screening testing. They must be tested at least once weekly with either PCR testing or antigen testing.

The order can be read here.

An article on the order can be read here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the full order here to update their vaccination and testing policies and processes in order to stay in compliance with the state of California.