While businesses are legally permitted, in general, to require employees to receive vaccination against COVID-19 before returning to the workplace in-person, many large companies in Pasadena say they’ve not yet reached a decision on the issue.
Guidelines issued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last month specified that employers may require employees to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, but also must provide reasonable accommodations for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons or due to religious beliefs. Officials have previously issued similar guidelines for other vaccines, such as that for influenza.
Ramit Mizrahi, principal attorney at the Pasadena-based employment law firm Mizrahi Law, said, for the most part, companies are within their legal rights to mandate their employees receive COVID-19 vaccines.
“Employers, I think, largely will be able to mandate this,” she said. “When employees who are healthy have no allergies or disabilities, have no sincerely held religious practice or belief [against vaccination], I think that mandating it will pass muster.”
“When there’s a disability or a sincerely held religious belief, there will have to be a reasonable accommodation analysis. There may be positions where the person, for health reasons, can’t be vaccinated, but there are alternative positions that may be open and available to them, or they may be able to do their job remotely,” according to Mizrahi. “If there isn’t, then, unfortunately, I think that they may not be able to return to their jobs.”
“Otherwise, people who just say, ‘I don’t want to take this’ — I think that the employers in those situations will be able to say, ‘Then we’re going to keep you out of the workplace until this threat is passed,’” she said.
With the widespread public availability of the vaccine still in the future, many employers in Pasadena said they have not yet made a decision with respect to mandatory vaccinations for employees.
Kaiser Permanente representatives said the company did not plan to make vaccination mandatory.
“Kaiser Permanente encourages its staff and physicians to get the vaccine for their safety and the safety of others, but will not mandate it,” the company said in a written statement.
Officials at another large employer in the city, Green Dot Corp., said since the business has transitioned entirely to remote work, “this is not an issue we’re focused on in the near-term.”
Other employers, including Wescom, Fuller Seminary, Pasadena City College, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said a decision was yet to be made on a vaccination policy.
More information related to COVID-19 and employment law can be found online at the EEOC’s website at https://www.eeoc.gov/wysk/what-you-should-know-about-covid-19-and-ada-rehabilitation-act-and-other-eeo-laws.