On Tuesday, March 29, 2022, just a day before her bill was slated to be heard in the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment, Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) announced that she would hold the bill, which would have required all workers in California—in both the public and private sectors—to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The bill, Assembly Bill (AB) 1993, has received national attention because it would require that all employees and independent contractors be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment unless they qualify for an exemption based on a medical condition, a disability or sincerely held religious beliefs. It is coauthored by Assemblymembers Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, Evan Low and Dr. Akilah Weber.
In a statement, Wicks cited progress made against the COVID-19 pandemic as a basis for holding the bill:
We introduced AB 1993 because of the high volume of workers, employers and public health experts who expressed the need for vaccine requirements yet felt unable to make these changes on their own. We are now in a new and welcome chapter in this pandemic, with the virus receding for the moment.
Wicks said she also pulled AB 1993 because of opposition from public safety unions, and intends to “work more collaboratively with labor and employers” to address their concerns. The bill as written is opposed by the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association and the California Professional Firefighters.
Under the proposed law, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health would be required to work with the California Department of Public Health to develop guidance on what would constitute a valid exemption. Businesses would face a to-be-determined penalty for failing to comply with the new rules. Employers would have to notify the state by January 1, 2023, that all workers were vaccinated against COVID-19.
While Wicks is holding the bill for now, she left the door open to taking AB 1993 back up for legislative consideration if pandemic conditions worsen.
Manatt will continue to monitor AB 1993 and other pieces of pandemic-related legislation that may significantly impact our clients.