WCAB Orders Reconsideration in COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate Case

In a recent decision, the California Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) granted a Petition for Reconsideration in Cisneros v. Los Angeles Unified School District, a case involving a healthcare assistant’s psychiatric injury claim following the enforcement of a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy. Within this blog post, our Fresno workers’ compensation defense lawyer discusses the allegations raised in this case in more detail highlighting the complexities of workplace policies, employee accommodations, and the standards for good-faith personnel actions.

Case Background

The applicant, a healthcare assistant employed by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), claimed a psychiatric injury stemming from October 15, 2020, to October 15, 2021. The injury was allegedly due to the stress and anxiety related to LAUSD’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy. The applicant had previously experienced an adverse reaction to a hepatitis vaccine in 1998 and had avoided vaccinations since then. Upon receiving the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, she sought a medical exemption, which was ultimately denied by LAUSD.

Initial WCJ Decision

The Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) initially found that LAUSD had acted in good faith and denied the applicant’s claim based on the good-faith personnel action defense as outlined in Labor Code Section 3208.3(h) and the Rolda decision. The applicant’s request for an exemption was deemed non-compliant due to missing information regarding the duration of the accommodation, and LAUSD’s accommodation program was found to be non-discriminatory and properly executed.

Petition for Reconsideration

The applicant filed for reconsideration, arguing that her psychiatric injury was not barred by the good-faith personnel action defense. She contended that LAUSD’s denial of her accommodation request and the subsequent requirement to resign or retire caused significant psychological distress.

WCAB’s Findings

The WCAB granted the Petition for Reconsideration, highlighting several key issues:

  1. Good-Faith Personnel Action: The WCAB found that LAUSD did not adequately prove that its actions were lawful, nondiscriminatory, and conducted in good faith. The rules regarding the duration of the accommodation and the possibility of remote work were not clearly communicated to the applicant.
  2. Remote Work Possibility: Evidence indicated that LAUSD could have considered remote work as a reasonable accommodation. The applicant had suggested remote tasks she could perform, but LAUSD did not explore this option thoroughly.
  3. Medical Evidence and Communication: The WCAB noted that LAUSD’s requirement for additional medical documentation (specifically the duration of the requested accommodation) was not clearly communicated to the applicant. Moreover, the provided medical evidence from the applicant’s doctor indicated a possible adverse reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine, which should have been given more consideration.

Next Steps

The WCAB rescinded the WCJ’s initial decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. The focus will be on:

  • Reassessing whether the personnel actions taken by LAUSD were indeed in good faith.
  • Evaluating the adequacy of the communication between LAUSD and the applicant regarding the required documentation for the accommodation.
  • Considering the feasibility of remote work or other reasonable accommodations for the applicant.


This WCAB decision underscores the importance of clear communication and thorough consideration of employee accommodation requests, especially under unprecedented circumstances like a pandemic. It also highlights the need for employers to ensure their actions are not only lawful but also conducted in good faith and without discriminatory practices. As the case returns to the trial level, it will serve as an important precedent for similar cases involving workplace policies and employee accommodations.

Get Help From a Workers’ Compensation Defense Attorney in Fresno, California

At Yrulegui & Roberts, our Fresno workers’ compensation defense law firm has the specialized expertise you can trust. We are proud to represent employers, insurance companies, and claims administrators. Call us now or contact us online for a strictly confidential appointment. From our Fresno law office, we provide workers’ compensation defense services throughout the San Joaquin Valley.