On May 18, 2021, Santa Clara County, California, issued a health order imposing new and significant obligations on employers in light of the increasing number of individuals that are being vaccinated against COVID-19.

The most significant requirement under the new health order, which went into effect on May 19, 2021, is that employers must inquire into, and continue to keep track of, the vaccination status of all personnel. The Santa Clara health order does not, however, require employers to request or record proof of vaccination. This requirement applies to Santa Clara employers regardless of whether they have a mandatory or voluntary vaccination program.

As we have discussed previously, California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) permits employers to inquire into an employee’s vaccination status, and even to request proof of vaccination. But Santa Clara has taken it one step further and has now put an affirmative obligation on employers to inquire, continue to inquire, and keep records about employees’ vaccination status.

All Santa Clara employers must initially ascertain the vaccination status of all employees by June 1, 2021. Any employee that is:

  • not vaccinated,
  • whose vaccination status is unknown, or
  • who refuses to provide their vaccination status upon request,

must be classified by the employer as unvaccinated (Unvaccinated Employees) and be subject to Santa Clara’s Mandatory Directive for Unvaccinated Personnel and Mandatory Directive on Use of Face Coverings. Moreover, Santa Clara requires employers to obtain updated vaccination status every 14 days for such Unvaccinated Employees after the initial request for information. A person is considered “fully vaccinated” 14 days after receiving the last dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine.

To show compliance with these obligations, employers must maintain detailed records demonstrating compliance with the new health order. These records should track the dates on which an employer attempted to ascertain each employee’s vaccination status and the employee’s response.

The penalties for non-compliance with the Santa Clara health order can be a fine, imprisonment, or both.

For additional information regarding the Santa Clara health order, or for any other questions on local vaccination rules and guidance, please contact an author of this post or the Hogan Lovells lawyer with whom you usually work.