Mandatory Vaccination Proof for Continued Employment – It Was Bound to Happen 

Many courts around California have sent out notices that for continued employment one will have to show proof of vaccination. The local has been inundated with contacts asking what the union is going to do about this. This communication is our attempt to make things as clear as possible for the membership concerning what the union can and cannot do in this instance. 

Our legal team has counseled us that the courts are able to do this, and as essential workers who deal with the public, we can be compelled to present vaccination proof for COVID-19 for continued employment. Although the union is not in the position to tell people what personal decisions they must make concerning healthcare choices, we are not encouraging our members avoid getting vaccinated. We are encouraging our members to follow public health guidelines as to the best preventative measures against infection, one of which is becoming vaccinated. Still, the choice is yours

The union can only explain what the consequences of those choices will be. According to the communications that we have received so far (most notably from Los Angeles and Sacramento courts), the outcome for not proving vaccination for COVID-19 would subject an employee to dismissal. It should be noted that the starting date for having to prove vaccination seems to be upon FDA full formal approval of one of the vaccines presently in use, or within a finite period counted from the date of full approval. (For LA court, 45 days counting from full FDA approval is the deadline) The FDA has still not given formal approval for any of the present vaccines in use. No court has indicated that anyone must provide proof right now. However, if your court is requiring proof right now, not waiting for full FDA approval of a vaccine, please contact the local immediately. We presently have meet and confers scheduled with Los Angeles (Aug. 12) and Sacramento (Aug. 18) courts over the issue. This is a change in policy and no court may proceed until the union has had full opportunity to treat the issue in a meet and confer.

In the communications received so far, there are specified what would be exemptions:

  • A “sincere religious belief” that precludes them from receiving the vaccination. Presently, no court has told us what the criteria would be for determining if the “sincere religious belief” precludes vaccinations, nor to which department one addresses the issue. It is unclear as to whether there would need to be documentation or some other affidavits.
  • A medical condition that impedes receiving the vaccines presently available. It seems that to receive this exemption one would have to solicit accommodations through Human Resources (for Los Angeles, the Disability and Leave Management department – Eric Penner), just as one would do in requesting accommodations for any other medical disability or impairment. To date it is not clear what would be needed in the physician’s note and what other documents may be needed to support one’s claim. 

We will update the membership regarding these exemptions as more information concerning the process becomes known. It will most likely be similar throughout the different courts.

What is the union’s position on this policy?

No one loses employment based on vaccination status. There are alternatives already being employed by governmental and public agencies throughout the state to allow for unvaccinated to be in the workforce.

In both the state employee directives, as well as for Los Angeles County and City, there is a set of protocols for non-vaccinated employees requiring that they be tested once a week, and that they continue to practice social distancing, masking regulations, and other safety measures within the workplace. This seems to be a reasonable solution for our workforce as well; there is no defensible argument to fire an employee for non-vaccination if other governmental and state agencies are allowing their workers to re-enter the workplace under stricter requirements, to include weekly testing. The union will be presenting alternatives to losing employment, including this one already being practiced around the state. We do this because we represent everyone in our local … without reservation.

In the end, with the constantly changing nature of this pandemic, the appearance of riskier more virulent strains, such as the Delta and Lambda variants, these policies may change or become more stringent. 

As we become aware of developments, we will endeavor to keep our members informed.

Stay well; stay safe.

In unity, 

Michael Ferreira