Los Angeles: Proof of Vaccination Requirement in Effect November 8
As we previously wrote, the City of Los Angeles recently passed an Ordinance requiring patrons to show proof of COVID-19 vaccinations before entering various public locations – including food establishments, gyms and fitness venues, entertainment and recreation venues, and personal care establishments.
Initially a few questions remained unanswered in the Ordinance, including its effective date, whether employees are covered, proof requirements for vendors, etc. The recent Rules and Regulations (in the form of FAQs), provide much needed clarification:
Effective Date and Signage Requirement: One area of confusion was the effective date of the Ordinance. The Ordinance was drafted with an intent to have an immediate effect but could not pass as an immediate measure. Therefore, it was unclear what would be the effective date for covered businesses to start verifying vaccination status.
The Regulations now provide that the effective date for the Ordinance is November 8, 2021 but enforcement will not begin before November 29, 2021. All covered businesses must post signs regarding the vaccination requirement in a visible location before entering an indoor area. Signs are available at SafePass LA.
Employees are Excluded: The Ordinance defines “Patrons” as any individual that is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine who enters, patronizes, attends an event, or purchases goods or services at a “covered location” or “outdoor large event”. Given the broad definition, it was unclear if employees are included.
The Regulations now confirm that employees are excluded from the proof of vaccination requirement, but nonetheless encourage employers to confirm vaccination status of employees.
Pre-Checking Vaccination Status Not Permitted: Surprisingly, the regulations do not permit covered locations to pre-check vaccination status of patrons (i.e., permitting patrons to upload vaccination records when making online reservations at a restaurant). Instead, covered locations are required to check for vaccination status upon the first in-person interaction with staff. Outdoor event operators must verify proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test in person, prior to entry to the event.
Grocery Stores that Provide Eating Areas and Private Parties are Covered: Although grocery stores are not specifically included in the Ordinance, the regulations clarify that a grocery store that provides tables and chairs for patrons to sit and eat inside must check proof of vaccination for any patrons who use that area – if the business chooses to keep that area open for use.
Additionally, any private parties within the City of Los Angeles are covered by the proof of vaccination requirement.
Vendors, Suppliers, and Government Workers are Excluded: Per the Regulations, temporary visitors – such as individuals making deliveries or pickups; providing services or repairs; or on site for emergency, regulatory, or official government purposes – do not need to show proof of vaccination. They must, however, wear a face mask while indoors.
Covered Location Rented for Religious Events Excluded: Per the Regulations, if a covered location is being rented by a house of worship for a religious event, the event organizer does not need to verify proof of vaccination for patrons, unless food and drinks (such as at wedding receptions) are being served. Proof of vaccination is not required where food or drink are briefly served indoors as part of a religious ceremony (e.g., communion or kiddush).
Printed Copy of Regulations Sufficient as Written Protocol: The Regulations further provide that maintaining a printed copy of the FAQs at the business satisfies the requirement to keep a written record for implementing and enforcing the Ordinance.
What to do When a Customer Refuses to Show Proof of Vaccination: The Regulations suggest offering alternative service methods to customers who refuse to provide proof of vaccine. For example, a restaurant may offer the option to dine outdoors or to take the order to-go. For gyms, the operator may offer an outdoor fitness area, if available.
The regulations clarify that if there is a verbal or physical altercation that appears to threaten life or property, businesses should call 911 to report an emergency situation.
Tal Burnovski Yeyni is an employment defense attorney.