1. Does the law or Child Care Licensing require child care employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19? (Last Reviewed 11/23/21)
No, COVID-19 vaccines are not currently required by law or Child Care Licensing, unless you are a Head Start employee.
Head Start Employees
- Head Start employees are required to get the COVID-19 vaccine as required by President Biden’s September 9, 2021 Executive Order and the Office of Head Start.
Other Child Care Providers
- Currently, Licensing does not require vaccination against COVID-19. You will not lose your child care license if you or your employees are unvaccinated.
- At this time, state and federal law do not require vaccination against COVID-19. People who work or volunteer at child care homes and centers must be vaccinated against influenza, pertussis, and measles. Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 1596.7995, 1597.622. The COVID-19 vaccine is not on that list of required vaccinations, but it might be added in the future.
Note for all providers: Your employees’ medical information is confidential and you may not reveal to parents whether your employees have been vaccinated against COVID-19. For more information, see Question #2 “Do parents have a right to find out if people working at their child’s child care have been vaccinated against COVID-19?”
2. Do parents have a right to find out if people working at their child’s child care have been vaccinated against COVID-19? (Last Reviewed 11/23/21)
No, parents do not have the right to know whether a child care provider or other child care employees have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
- Required Vaccines
Providers are required to be immunized against the flu, pertussis, and measles. Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 1596.7995, 1597.622. Currently, there are no laws that require providers or their employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 to operate family childcare homes (“FCCH”) or childcare centers. Also, Licensing does not require that provider get the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Medical Privacy for Providers & Their Employees
Federal and California state law protect an individual’s protected health information.
California state law mandates that employers who receive medical information shall establish appropriate procedures to ensure the confidentiality and protection from unauthorized use and disclosure of that information. Cal. Civ. Code § 56.20(a). This means that if an employer gets information from their employees regarding the vaccination, the employer must protect the information and prevent it from being shared without permission.
No employer shall use, disclose, or knowingly permit its employees or agents to use or disclose medical information about its employees. That information can only be revealed if the employee signs an authorization. A provider has the choice to let a parent know if they themselves have been vaccinated, but they must get written permission to reveal their employee’s vaccination status. Cal. Civ. Code § 56.20(a). If the employee gives the employer permission to disclose their vaccination status, the authorization must comply with state law requirements, found here. Cal. Civ. Code § 56.21.
Even if a provider is not vaccinated, they are required to have COVID-19 procedures in place to minimize exposure and infection. Each local county health department may require different preventative measures for their childcare providers. Contact your local health department to keep up to date with your county’s current restrictions.
3. Can child care providers reveal which children have been vaccinated? (Last Reviewed 11/23/21)
No. Providers must keep children’s medical information confidential, and that includes their vaccine history. While the COVID-19 vaccine is available to children 5-11, Child care providers cannot reveal that information.
4. Can child care homes and centers require that their employees get the COVID-19 vaccine? (Last updated 3/7/22)
Yes, child care homes and centers may choose to require their employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine before allowing them to work. Requiring vaccinations is consistent with their duty to create a safe environment for their employees and for children in their care.
Child care programs requiring employee vaccinations must consider “reasonable accommodations” when job applicants or employees cannot get vaccinated because of a disability, medical condition, or religious beliefs.
Suppose an employee requests that the child care program waive a COVID-19 vaccine requirement because of a disability, medical condition, or religious belief. In that case, the child care program must engage in a good-faith interactive process.
In the interactive process, the child care center or home must consider whether the request to waive the vaccine requirement is necessary and reasonable.
A request to waive a COVID-19 vaccine requirement is reasonable if it would not:
- impose an undue hardship on the provider, or
- prevent the employee from performing essential duties without posing a direct threat to the health and safety of the employee or others.
If waiving the requirement would not be reasonable, the provider must consider whether alternatives would reasonably accommodate the employee. Alternatives include on-site safeguards, changes in work practices, or job restructuring. For example, the child care program might consider whether continuing mask protocols and frequent COVID testing would be an acceptable alternative. The provider can exclude the employee from employment ONLY IF no accommodation would allow the employee to perform essential functions safely and without causing an undue hardship on the employer.
During the interactive process, the employer may ask for reasonable documentation supporting the disability, medical, or religious reason and need for a reasonable accommodation.
Pregnancy-related reasons for requesting accommodation are treated the same as other medical conditions. The fact of pregnancy is not on its own a sufficient reason for exemption from a vaccine requirement. The CDC has indicated that vaccination is safe for pregnant women. On September 29, 2021, the CDC issued an emergency alert for urgent action to increase vaccination among pregnant women. For more information on medical exemptions, see Question #5 “What do I do if an employee refuses to get a vaccine for medical reasons?”
If an employee requests religious accommodation, and an employer has an objective basis for questioning either the religious nature or the sincerity of a particular belief or practice, the employer would be justified in seeking additional supporting information. Federal guidelines and court rulings define religion broadly as including “moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong” the believer holds that with the same sincerity as that of traditional religions. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has clarified in guidance that it does not consider that someone does not “trust that the vaccine is safe” or questions the wisdom of the mandate among protected religious beliefs.
Providers must look at the specific facts of the individual situation. For example, a program that includes another staff member or child who is particularly vulnerable to COVID, because of age or medical condition, or in which children are unable to wear masks because of age, may require higher levels of precaution.
Each local county health department may require different preventative measures for their childcare providers. Contact your local health department to stay updated with your county’s current restrictions. Please see question “Where can I get information about how to safely reopen my child care?” for more information on health and safety measures for your child care business.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency that advises employers about discrimination in the workplace, regularly updates guidance that suggests that employers can mandate the vaccine, while taking care to do so in a way that complies with anti-discrimination laws.
 See 29 USC 654 (employer responsibility to create a safe workplace); Cal. Admin. Code § 101223(a)(2) (licensee responsibility to provide a safe and healthful environment for children).
5. What do I do if an employee refuses to get a vaccine for medical reasons? (Last Reviewed 11/23/21)
If the employee refuses because of a disability or medical condition under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), the employer must try to accommodate the employee unless it would pose an undue hardship.
When an employee requests a medical exemption from the vaccine, the employer must document and engage in a good faith interactive process with the employee.
An interactive process is a conversation about what accommodation the employee needs to continue working. You may request verification from a medical professional that the employee has the disability or medical condition, and documentation to show the employee’s need for the accommodation.
These JAN (Job Accommodation Network) articles may be useful during the interactive process.
- The ADA and Managing Reasonable Accommodation Requests from Employees with Disabilities in Response to Covid-19
- Requests For Medical Documentation and the ADA
- Workplace Flu Vaccination Requirements and the ADA
During the interactive process, you may decide that you can accommodate the request to be exempted from the COVID-19 vaccine. In this case, you may impose additional preventative measures to protect others in the workplace, such as the ones listed in this resource. You may determine the request to be exempted from the Covid-19 vaccine is an undue hardship. An undue hardship is when an accommodation is significantly difficult or expensive to implement. When deciding on whether the accommodation is an undue burden, you can consider the following factors here.
In addition, these resources from the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) might also be helpful:
6. Can I require the parents who attend our program to get the COVID-19 vaccine? (Last Reviewed 11/23/21)
Yes. As a private business, child care providers can include anything in their oral or written contracts with parents, unless a federal or state law prohibits it. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act and California civil rights laws prohibit discrimination based on a person’s disability, medical condition, age, gender and other protected categories. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 12132, 12182(a); Cal. Civ. Code. § 51. These laws do not prevent you from having a general rule that the parents of children who attend your program must get the COVID-19 vaccine. The laws do prevent you from refusing to make a reasonable change to that general rule, if the change is needed to include a child because of a disability, medical condition, or other protected category in which the child or someone associated with the child belongs, and the changed rule would not directly threaten others.
Child care providers who require parents to get a COVID-19 vaccine may find it useful to have a standard change to the rule, like requiring parents and caregivers to show weekly proof of a negative COVID-19 test result, to offer families who cannot meet the vaccination requirement for a protected reason.
Here are steps you can take with parents and caregivers to lower the risk of COVID-19 in your child care:
(1) Disallow parents who have COVID-19 symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 from coming to your family child care home or child care center:
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) states that child care programs must exclude any child, parent, caregiver, or staff who show COVID-19 symptoms from their family child care home or child care center. The CDPH and local health departments also recommend that parents and caregivers testing positive for COVID-19 avoid your child care for 14 days and quarantine at home. Contact your county department of public health for the most up-to-date rules and guidance.
Common COVID-19 symptoms can be found here.
(2) Encourage parents and caregivers to get vaccinated for COVID-19:
COVID-19 can cause severe illness, pneumonia or death, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that all individuals age 5 and older receive the COVID-19 vaccination. Because of the severe health risks associated with COVID-19, you can encourage parents and caregivers to get vaccinated.
To get more facts about COVID-19 vaccines, please visit the California Department of Public Health’s informational webpages:
(3) Recommend parents and caregivers to get tested for COVID-19:
According to the California Department of Public Health, parents and caregivers should inform parents and caregivers that all individuals with COVID-19 symptoms should get tested. Parents and caregivers should avoid entering your child care and quarantine at home for 14 days after their last exposure to COVID-19.
The California Department for Public Health states people who have received a negative or positive COVID-19 test should still quarantine for 14 days. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 can be infectious for 48 hours before symptoms appear or for 48 hours before someone tests positive. So, quarantining for 14 days after exposure can prevent further spread of the virus. For more information on these recommendations, find your local health department here.
Please see “Where can I get information about how to safely reopen my child care?” for more guidance on COVID-19 safety measures.