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Updated guidance on Covid-19 for employers

On March 4, 2021, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) released an updated guidance document on COVID-19 for employers and workers. The guidance document addresses many key questions over concerns around best practices.

The ten-page document answers a slew of questions covering many topics, including what information employers can seek, how to respond to employees with symptoms of Covid-19, job-protected leave, reasonable accommodations and employers’ rights concerning vaccinations.

The California Chamber of Commerce commented on the updated guidance: “The DFEH answers one of employers’ biggest questions—can they require employees to get vaccinated? Yes, says the DFEH, an employer may require employees to receive an FDA-approved vaccination so long as the employer complies with the Fair Employment and HousingAct (FEHA).”

The DFEH guidance notes that if an employer requires vaccination, they must accommodate for employees’objections to vaccination based on protected status such as a disability or religious belief. Outside of those protected groups, an employer is not legally required to reasonably accommodate the employee.

According to the guidance document, an employee may be entitled to up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave under the California Family Rights Act for their own health condition, or to care for certain types of family members including a child, parent or spouse. Employers have the right to require certification from a medical provider within 15 days, unless it is impractical for the employee to comply. However, the DFEH guidance specifies that “[i] n the context of a pandemic, it is not typically practicable for employees to provide advance notice of the need for leave…or for employees to obtain certifications.”

The DFEH provides the guidance in Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese languages, which can be accessed on their COVID-19 Resources and Guidance page.

In addition to DFEH’s updated guidance, the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency has a COVID-19 Employer Portal that may be a useful resource. This portal can be used to find business and industry guidance obtained from state, county and city sources to help determine if businesses are safe and compliant with operations and/or reopening.

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