Los Angeles Closer to Proof of Vaccination Ordinance

Attorney Tal Burnovski Yeyni

Tal Burnovski Yeyni | Associate

September 29, 2021

The Los Angeles City Council met today (September 29th) to discuss the proposed Ordinance to require proof of vaccines to enter “certain public locations.”  There will be a second reading next week.

If the Ordinance moves forward, covered establishments (see examples below) will need to confirm patrons’ COVID-19 vaccination status. Patrons may self-attest religious or medical exemptions and would be permitted entry upon showing proof of a negative COVID-19 test conducted within 72 hours before entry.  

Which businesses are covered?

In addition to city facilities, and “Large Outdoor Events” (5,000-9,999 attendees), the Ordinance covers:

  1. Establishments where food or beverages are served, including, but not limited to, restaurants, bars, fast food establishments, coffee shops, tasting rooms, cafeterias, food courts, breweries, wineries, distilleries, banquet halls, and hotel ballrooms;
  1. Gyms and fitness venues, including, but not limited to: gyms, recreation facilities, fitness centers, yoga, pilates, cycling, barre, and dance studios, hotel gyms, boxing and kickboxing gyms, fitness boot camps, and other facilities used for conducting indoor group fitness classes;
  1. Entertainment and recreation venues, including, but not limited to, movie theaters, music and concert venues, live performance venues, adult entertainment venues, commercial event and party venues, sports arenas, convention centers, exhibition halls, museums, malls, shopping centers, performing arts theaters, bowling alleys, arcades, card rooms, family entertainment centers, play areas, pool and billiard halls, and other recreational game centers;
  1. Personal care establishments, including spas, nail salons, hair salons, barbershops, tanning salons, estheticians, skin care and cosmetology services, body art professionals, piercing shops, and massage therapy, except as medically required.

What are covered establishments required to do under the ordinance (if passed)?

On October 21, 2021: all covered locations must display visible signs notifying patrons that beginning on November 4, 2021, proof of vaccination is required to enter the covered establishment.

On November 4, 2021: a covered establishment must require patrons to show proof of vaccination when they first come into contact with staff.

For patrons who appear to be 18 or older, a covered establishment must also cross-check the proof of the vaccine/negative test (see below) against the patron’s photo identification. Photo identification includes driver’s license, government issued identification card, school or work identification card, or passport.   

Covered establishments must also develop and keep a written record describing how the establishment is implementing and enforcing the requirements of the ordinance.  

Does the (pending) ordinance recognize medical/religious exemptions?

Yes.  Patrons may self-attest they are exempt based on medical or religious reasons. In such cases, a covered establishment may either require a patron to use an outside portion of the business or permit entry to an indoor portion if the patron provides proof of a negative COVID-19 test  taken 72 hours prior to entry.

Is proof of vaccination/negative test required even for brief periods of time (like when picking up food, etc.)?

No. The Ordinance states that unvaccinated patrons/visitors may enter an indoor portion of a covered establishment for brief and limited periods of time to use the restroom, order, pick-up, pay, or perform necessary repairs – but only while wearing a well-fitted mask at all times while indoors.  

Will businesses that require pre-payment need to repay patrons who do not show proof of vaccination (e.g., for gym memberships, etc.)

The Ordinance does not provide an answer. However, during the September 29th hearing, the City Attorney’s office indicated that this is to be decided by each businessowner, in accordance with the contractual agreement with patrons.

Will there be penalties for non-compliance?

Yes. While the ordinance does not permit individuals to sue covered entities, starting November 29, 2021, the City may impose sanctions for any violation, as follows:

  1. A warning and a notice to correct for a first violation;
  2. An administrative fine of $1,000 for a second violation;
  3. An administrative fine of $2,000 for a third violation;
  4. An administrative fine of $5,000 for a fourth and each subsequent violation

Are employees also covered under the Ordinance?

Employees are likely covered under the Ordinance. “Patron” is defined in part as any individual who is eligible to receive the vaccine and who enters a covered establishment or outdoor large event.

When will the Ordinance take effect?

If passed next week with 12 votes, the Ordinance will take immediate effect.

If passed, when is the Ordinance set to expire?

The draft Ordinance currently states it will sunset when the Los Angeles Mayor’s Declaration of Emergency (as of March 4, 2020) is lifted.  

Tal Burnovski Yeyni is employment defense attorney.

This information provides an overview of a specific developing situation. It is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal advice for any particular fact or situation.

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