DENVER (KDVR) — Businesses are weighing whether to revisit COVID-19 precautions on the heels of federal guidance that encourages indoor masking for everyone, regardless of vaccination status.
After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the new guidance, President Joe Biden announced that the country’s more than 2 million federal employees who are not vaccinated will be required to get regular tests and wear a mask. Disobeying the guidance could result in termination.
But meanwhile, many federal employees in Colorado are still working from home.
The U.S. Postal Service, IRS and other federal agencies said they have not received the official recommendations yet, but some private sector businesses are also gearing up for changes.
The warnings and guidelines come amid concerns about the aggressive delta variant of COVID-19 and recent spikes in cases in much of the country, including most of Colorado.
“I’d rather be slightly inconvenienced than sick or in the hospital,” one Denver resident said when asked about mandated mask use.
What are employees’ rights in COVID mandates?
Employment law attorney Bryan Kuhn said there are two sides to the employee rights issue.
“There’s a concern if people aren’t masked up, are they going to endanger someone else?” Kuhn said.
Kuhn tells the Problem Solvers some employees who refuse to wear masks may have legal grounds if they have health conditions that could be worsened by mask use.
“Employees may have asthma, respiratory issues, COPD, severe allergies, and wearing a mask for that person could be very difficult, if not outright dangerous,” Kuhn said.
Still, Kuhn said “employees have a right to be protected from their coworkers.”
When it comes to employers asking employees about whether they’ve been vaccinated, there are privacy considerations.
“HIPAA has not been amended, and really asking anything about medical information is still a no-go under federal law,” Kuhn said.
Chris Anderson-Tarver of the Denver Distillery said recent changes in mask policies can create challenges for employers, but it is crucial to protect the public’s health.
“I can see it coming. It is something that you have to decide if you’re going put your foot down or not,” Anderson-Tarver said.
Loyal customers and fans of the popular distillery near Broadway and Alameda Avenue kept the business afloat during the pandemic. Anderson-Tarver said the staff is grateful and is making everyone’s health and safety a top priority.
“Having another wave is a big deal for us,” he said, “and we’re very much concerned about the future with this delta variant.”