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  • Jennifer Burton

California Worker’s Rights Regarding Vaccination Status & Testing

Three and a half years after the global pandemic, COVID-19 is still affecting workers across the state of California. As recently as today, news reports have shared that Huntington Beach City Council in Southern California has banned mask and vaccine mandates in the city (https://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/news/story/2023-09-06/huntington-beach-city-council-bans-mask-vaccine-mandates-for-covid). California workers’ rights regarding requirements to provide vaccination status or undergo weekly testing for COVID-19 remain hot topics in the news, with a resurgence of COVID-19 cases across the country in recent months (https://www.npr.org/2023/08/31/1196943567/covid-cases-surge-mask-mandates).


According to the Society of Human Resources Management, “From March 4, 2020 until February 28, 2023, California was in a state of emergency.” (https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/state-and-local-updates/pages/court-report-california-covid-vaccine.aspx). Halfway through this time period, the state public health officer issued an order requiring K-12 schools to verify the COVID-19 vaccination status of all employees. The order continued that if employees were not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, they would be required to undergo weekly testing. This order remained in effect until September 17, 2022.


The California Confidentiality of Medical Information Act (CMIA) was referenced by a school district employee in a case who was dismissed from employment as a result of failing to comply with this order while it was in effect. When she was terminated by the school district in September 2022, the plaintiff in Rossi v. Sequoia Union Elementary School, California, Ct. App., No F085416 (August 25, 2023), filed a lawsuit under the CMIA, alleging discrimination due to her refusal to authorize release of her medical information. The case was dismissed before trial, and the plaintiff appealed. The court of appeals determined that there was no violation of CMIA by the school district, because the employee had refused to provide medical information (her vaccination status) so the school district had no medical information in their possession.


While this particular order is no longer in effect in the state of California, many employers do require proof of vaccination or regular testing for their employees, especially with the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in recent months across the U.S. If you have questions about your right to freedom from discrimination as a worker in the state of California, feel free to reach out to us at (888) 855-2505 or email us at info@gobolaw.com.


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