Is there a religious exemption to vaccine work requirements?
Employees may request a COVID-19 vaccine exemption based on a sincerely held religious belief. To qualify for a religious exemption, the employee must show they have a bona fide and well-documented belief that prevents them from getting vaccinated. Additionally, the belief must be religious rather than scientific or secular.
Under San Francisco’s health order, there are limited religious beliefs that qualify for a vaccine exemption. For example, veganism, a desire to live a pure lifestyle, distrust of the government or fear of possible side effects do not qualify as religious beliefs that warrant an exemption.
Employers must consider each exemption request on a case-by-case basis. When an employee qualifies for a religious exemption, the employer is required to discuss reasonable accommodations.
Some types of reasonable accommodations include allowing the employee to transfer to a different position or regularly get tested for COVID-19. Employers are not required to provide accommodations if doing so would cause undue hardship to their business.
Unvaccinated individuals who qualify for a religious exemption and work in a high-risk setting must wear a well-fitted mask. They must also undergo COVID-19 testing at least once per week. However as COVID is still a relatively new disease the legal regulations governing vaccine exemptions may be subject to change.