California lawmakers propose COVID-19 vaccination requirement for businesses

A group of lawmakers in California have proposed a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for all businesses in the state.

The proposal, Assembly Bill 1993, would require workplaces and employers to verify that their employees and independent contractors are fully vaccinated against the virus as a condition of employment. It would also require businesses to ensure that new employees have at least one vaccine dose by their first day on the job and the second dose within 45 days.

"The pathway to endemic is through vaccines — and to get there, Californians need consistency and certainty," Buffy Wicks, an assembly member who introduced the bill with other Democratic state lawmakers, said in a news release. "People have experienced so much whiplash over the past couple years when it comes to ever-changing guidelines in the workplace. Workers are craving stability, and vaccines are the key to making that happen."

Under the bill, employees and independent contractors would have to comply with the vaccination requirement unless they are eligible for an exemption because of a medical condition, disability or a sincerely held religious belief. 

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health and the California Department of Public Health would determine guidance for employers regarding what constitutes a medical condition, disability, religious belief and valid vaccination status, Ms. Wicks said..

California Gov. Gavin Newsom would still have to sign off on the proposal. However, if the bill is signed into law, there would be fines and penalties for businesses that don't comply, and each employer would have to verify compliance by each employee or independent contractor by Jan. 1, 2023.

The California bill comes after the Supreme Court blocked enforcement of the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccinate-or-test rule for workers at larger businesses Jan. 13, but upheld CMS' vaccination mandate for eligible staff at healthcare facilities.  

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