Questions About KP’s Vaccination Requirement

August 30th Update

The Coalition of Kaiser Unions has completed the national bargaining with KP over the vaccine mandate policy. Please see this document for the final version of the policy.

Additionally, the Coalition has shared the responses that KP provided to their questions at the national level. Please see their responses here.

If you have any questions or need clarity on how these policies apply to you, please help get answers as quickly as possible and send your questions directly to KP HR in Colorado.

August 19th Update

After the national level discussions and negotiations on the effects of the Vaccine Mandate Policy last Thursday (8/12) between the Coalition of Kaiser Unions and national KP representatives, management responded with answers today to some of our questions and also made some changes to the policy due to our advocacy.

This information is a change from previous updates and from the information previously put out by KP management. Clearly, if we as a union had been able to hold these discussions prior to the announcement of the policy from management, there would be much less confusion and anxiety among members. We are underlining the changes.

  • For Colorado, anyone with a legitimate medical or religious exemption will be required to wear a mask and test weekly starting on October 1st . (NOT AUGUST 23RD!)
  • KP employees will receive 2 hours of paid time for vaccination at a location of their choice, including outside providers. 
  • Any employee who has an adverse reaction to the vaccine as confirmed by a physician will be eligible for a maximum of 8 hours paid leave (until Oct 1st). 
  • On October 1st, anyone unvaccinated and without approved medical or religious exemption placed on unpaid leave for 60 days. This will allow more time than the 45 days for a person to decide to get vaccinated and return to KP employment.
  • After 60 days, if employees are not in compliance with the policy, they will be terminated or allowed to resign instead.
  • Where a physician confirms an adverse reaction to the COVID vaccine, an employee could be entitled to workers compensation.
  • Kaiser will engage BRGs in providing information to employees on efficacy and importance of receiving the COVID vaccine.
  • KP will continue to provide labor with regular vaccination rate updates.

There are still unanswered questions and unresolved issues, and the Coalition will be continuing to engage with KP on them. For example, we still have not received an answer on the definition of medical and religious exemptions. As we get clarity on these issues, we will share the information with union members as quickly as possible

REMINDER: PURPLE UP on Fridays to show management we are united and union strong! 

August 10th Update

On August 2nd, Kaiser Permanente issued a nationwide decision to require all employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Please refer to KP’s announcement in your work emails. This announcement came without consulting Union leadership, causing unnecessary confusion and stress among our members. Your President of Local 105, Ron Ruggiero and the Local 105 Executive Board Members immediately convened an emergency meeting and issued a statement in response. Please see that email for more information. The staff, leaders, and members of the union will continue to discuss the appropriate actions to take.

Naturally, many of you have shared your perspective, your concerns, and your questions with Union leaders and staff. We have summarized these questions and provided our best responses at this point.

The questions and answers below are based on what we have heard from you all, what we know now, and may change rapidly over the next few days. If management had engaged with Local 105 prior to announcing the policy we would have more answers but they continue to disrespect us as union members by disregarding the Partnership. Please watch for future updates and get involved in the conversation to make sure you are informed and included.

What is Local 105’s position on the vaccine mandate?

SEIU Local 105 has been consistent in recommending that our members get vaccinated for their own, their family’s, and the community’s health. It is a critical tool in ending this pandemic. Currently, over 99% of deaths due to Covid-19 are among unvaccinated people. In terms of the announced KP mandate, it is critical that we get into the negotiations with KP so that we get answers to our members’ many questions, understand the potential effects upon our members; and bargain over them. We have not yet even seen what the proposed details are, and the details matter a lot.

Should I let management access my medical record to prove I had the vaccine?

Giving KP management access to your medical records sets a bad precedent, and we don’t know what other consequences it might have. We strongly discourage members of Local 105 from giving management broad access to your medical records until we have a clear understanding of the situation and can negotiate a reasonable process for providing proof of the vaccine.

If I get the vaccine and have a negative reaction, can I use COVID time? Will I get an occurrence for any absences caused by the vaccine?

The issues regarding vaccine-related absences are important issues that will be part of bargaining. We will have more information as we hear the details from management and begin the conversations with them

Are the COVID19 vaccines necessary, safe, and effective?

Here’s a great resource for union members on the vaccine: https://www.seiu.org/covid-19-faqs While the CDC and other public health authorities have confirmed that the vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary for ending the pandemic and reducing the risk of the virus to ourselves and our families, the best resource for knowing whether or not you should get vaccinated is your own medical provider. 

You should know that the US Food and Drug Administration has recently granted full approval for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Read more here. Also, the Union of Concerned Scientists (not a labor Union, but a partner organization of SEIU) has a very thorough assessment of the best information available. Don’t forget this resource for union members.

Can Kaiser mandate or require that employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. Management is legally able to require that employees receive the vaccine as part of KP’s duties to provide a safe workplace for employees and safe medical offices for members. Because we are a union, management is required to bargain with us, but ultimately we cannot legally stop them from mandating the vaccine.

Can Kaiser mandate that work-from-home employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. If work-from-home employees may have any reason to enter a Kaiser facility, management can include them in the mandate. It is not clear from KP’s emails what their intended policy will be on this topic, but it appears at this time that all employees will be included in the mandate.

Can Kaiser require that I show proof of getting the vaccine? Isn’t this Personal Health Information?

Yes, they can require proof of your vaccination. They cannot access your medical records themselves, but they can require that you provide the necessary documentation. This is clearly an area that can be negotiated. We are consulting with our legal experts and with other Unions to gain a better understanding of this question. 

What are our rights as a Unionized workforce in the face of the vaccine mandate?

In a unionized workplace with a Collective Bargaining Agreement, management is required to bargain with us. The requirement to bargain does not mean that we as the Union can decide what the policy will be, as management is only required to bargain with us in good faith, not to accept our proposals. If we do not agree with their policy, they are legally allowed to implement their policy after bargaining with us in good faith. The bargaining process can help ensure that the policy complies with the law, treats everyone fairly, and is carried out in a reasonable process. Additionally, once we have bargained an agreement, we have the power to make sure the policy is followed fairly and consistently through the vigilance of our Stewards and Union members. 

Are there exemptions to the mandate for medical or religious reasons?

Yes. The statement issued by Kaiser acknowledged that employees must either be vaccinated or apply for medical or religious exemption. Legally this is the requirement, and exemptions are a topic that can be negotiated.

How are we as a Union planning on responding?

KP Colorado has agreed to meet with union leaders to discuss the local roll-out of the mandate. Those conversations will start with a meeting on Wednesday with management. The actual bargaining of the policy will most likely be a national process. As we get more information, we will share it with you.

If I don’t want to receive the vaccine, am not medically or religiously exempt, and I resign or am terminated, would I be eligible for unemployment? 

The standard for unemployment eligibility is that you are unemployed, “through no fault of your own.” This would mean that you most likely would not be eligible for unemployment benefits if you resign or are terminated for not complying with KP’s vaccine mandate. Please see this legal blog post or contact the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment for more information.