Unvaccinated dental staff? 5 tips, per CDA

As COVID-19 cases rise across the nation, the California Dental Association provides the answers to frequently asked questions about dentists' responsibilities as employers and employee rights related to vaccinations.

Can employers require staff and new hires to get vaccinated?
Laws vary by state. If employers choose to require vaccinations, they must consider potential complications or side effects; reasonable accommodation for medical conditions such as pregnancy; sincerely held religious objections; and legal risks, such as discrimination claims stemming from workplace disparities between vaccinated and unvaccinated employees.

Can an employer ask for proof of vaccination?
Yes. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employers may ask for proof of vaccination, as it is not considered a disability-related inquiry. However, employers shouldn't request any more information than necessary. Asking an employee why they aren't vaccinated may trigger disability-related protections.

Can employers terminate an employee who refuses to get vaccinated?
Under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, employers must reasonably accommodate known disabilities, sincerely held religious beliefs and practices that prevent vaccination. Employers cannot retaliate against anyone for engaging in activity protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. There is a strong likelihood that a worker who experiences negative employment consequences for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine could pursue a discrimination claim.

Should an employee's vaccine status be shared with patients?
No. Privacy laws prohibit employers from sharing employees' private medical information.

Should a patient's request to be seen only by vaccinated staff be accommodated?
No. Disclosing vaccine statuses of staff puts the practice at risk. Reassure patients that the office adheres to required infection control protocols and employs the appropriate practices to ensure ongoing safety.

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