Know Your Rights
FAQ’s on Religious Accommodations for Vaccine Requirements


The State Public Health Order requiring mandatory vaccinations for health care settings – issued on August 5 – recognizes that employees may seek an exemption based on their religious beliefs. This is part of the reasonable accommodation process offered in all state departments.

What is a religious accommodation? 

Under state and federal law, employers are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of religion.  Discrimination includes failing to accommodate religious beliefs or practices unless it would require an undue hardship on the employer.  

Do I qualify for a religious accommodation for the vaccine requirement? 

In order to qualify for a religious exemption, you must have a “sincerely held” religious belief that prevents you from meeting a work obligation, such as getting vaccinated.  The belief can be sincerely held even if it is newly adopted, not consistently observed, or inconsistent with the beliefs of others who follow a similar religion.  However, a belief based on social, political, or economic philosophies, or personal preferences, is not a “religious” belief.  The belief must be a sincerely held religious belief to you personally.   

Can my employer deny my request for a religious accommodation?

An employer is not required to provide an accommodation if it would create an “undue hardship” on the employer.  As part of your request, you may want to be clear that you would comply with masking and COVID testing requirements to show that you are willing to engage in practices that will assist in preventing the spread of COVID-19, thus making your requested accommodation not an undue hardship on your employer.   

How can I request a religious accommodation to be exempted from the vaccine requirement? 

Get a form: Ask your supervisor, personnel office, or EEO coordinator if your department has a specific process for requesting a religious accommodation.  Your department may have a form or specific requirements that you need to follow.  For example, CDCR requires that you submit the request at least 15 days prior to the need for the accommodation.  

Submit all required documents or declarations: You may be required to provide information in support of your request such as: explaining your specific religious belief regarding vaccines; providing information from a religious leader within your religious group; and/or explaining how the requested accommodation resolves the conflict between your religious belief and the job requirement.  

Engage in the interactive process: Your department may engage in the interactive process to discuss your request and the available accommodations. If you need assistance, please contact the Member Resource Center at 866-471-7348 and ask to speak with your assigned Union Resource Center Representative.

What should I do if my request is denied?

Ask whoever denies the request what appeal process you have, then contact the Member Resource Center at 866-471-7348.