While public health leaders continue to wrestle with vaccine hesitancy, businesses are wrestling with employee challenges to COVID-19 vaccination mandates. This Saturday marked a win for private employers after a Texas District Court tossed a lawsuit brought by over 100 hospital employees claiming they were subjected unlawfully to a COVID-19 vaccination policy as a condition of continued employment. Although the plaintiffs’ counsel has said they plan to appeal the decision, the order provides helpful precedent for other organizations mulling such vaccination mandates.
Faegre Drinker previously reported on one of the first lawsuits challenging a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. As employers continue to evaluate employee vaccination, another lawsuit has been filed in the Central District of California, California educators for Medical Freedom et al v. The Los Angeles Unified School District et al., 21-cv-02388 (C.D. Cal. filed 3/17/2021).
The California Educators for Medical Freedom, along with seven employees of the Los Angeles Unified School District, are seeking injunctive relief and potential damages due to a vaccine mandate instituted in March of 2021. Plaintiffs were allegedly told that if they were not vaccinated by April of 2021, they could face a “job detriment, up to and including termination from employment.”
The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has updated its COVID-19 FAQs and has issued its long-awaited guidance regarding employers mandating COVID-19 vaccines.
As a preliminary matter, the DFEH explained that it is not providing guidance on whether or to what extent an employer should mandate vaccination within its workforce. Rather, the DFEH stated that its guidance/FAQs are to address how employers comply with the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) if employers require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 with an FDA-approved vaccine.
On March 12, 2021, nearly one year to the day after Minnesota declared a peacetime emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Tim Walz issued Executive Order 21-11, which rolls back certain restrictive measures aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus.
Chief among the changes is a relaxation of the mandate that all employees who are able to work remotely must do so. Commencing on March 25, 2020, pursuant to Executive Order 20-20, Minnesota employees have been required to work remotely whenever they are able. This requirement will cease on April 14, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. Employers are now strongly encouraged to allow Minnesota-based employees to work from home when they are able to do so. Employers are also strongly encouraged to implement reasonable accommodations for those employees who are at-risk for infection or who reside with a household member with an underlying medical condition that has not yet become eligible for vaccination. This softens obligations previously set forth in Executive Orders 20-54 and 20-55 in light of the expanded access to COVID-19 vaccinations.