While proof of COVID-19 vaccination or regular COVID-19 testing is now required for all health care workers in California, dental practice owners may encounter employees who refuse to comply with the state’s July 26 public health order.
Conflicting views over mandatory vaccine policies could potentially lead to an employee quitting or getting fired and subsequently filing for unemployment. But whether an employee is still entitled to unemployment benefits if they quit or get fired for not complying with the public order varies on a case-by-case basis.
In general, employees who leave a position voluntarily due to non-compliance with the order or are fired for violating a company policy may not be eligible for unemployment benefits and payments. The EDD specifies that individuals filing for unemployment benefits must be out of work through no fault of their own. If an employee is fired, the employer must prove there was misconduct, which could include violating the public health order.
Before firing an employee for refusing to comply with the state's public health order, CDA advises practice owners to consider other options such as placing the employee on unpaid leave and discussing the possibility that the employee may not be able to fall back on unemployment benefits.
Firing an employee who refuses to be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing poses a legal risk and should only be done after speaking with an employment law attorney.
Practice owners should always be prepared to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with a qualified medical reason or sincerely held religious belief that conflicts with the vaccination mandate.
As COVID-19 guidelines and mandates are evolving, practice owners should routinely review their policies and keep a close eye on guidance and recommendations from local health departments, the California Department of Public Health and the CDC. San Francisco and Los Angeles counties, for example, earlier this month issued local orders mandating COVID-19 vaccination, for example.
CDA will also provide the most current information on the public health order in the CDA Newsroom as it becomes available.
CDA understands that navigating the public health order has been challenging for dental practice owners. To assist with compliance, CDA has resources, including a regularly updated FAQ about the order, guidance for implementing a mandatory vaccine policy, a self-certification of employee vaccination status form and much more.
You can also find tips for facilitating conversations with your patients and staff about the COVID-19 vaccines’ safety and efficiency in CDA’s Vaccine Confidence Toolkit.