Colorado employment attorney answers vaccine mandate questions

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DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado employment attorneys say they expect to see more and more employers issue vaccine mandates after the Food and Drug Administration gave full approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Monday.

Christine Samsel is a shareholder at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck who specializes in employment law. She wrote a client alert about the issue, saying the FDA approval removed a significant legal hurdle, but there are still some legal landmines for employers who implement vaccine mandates.

“For instance, there are certain legally required accommodations, medical conditions, disabilities, sincerely held religious beliefs among them, that employers are going to have to accommodate, and that could create, particularly for large employers, it could create kind of an administrative nightmare as they process those requests,” Samsel said.

Plus, there will be some employees who don’t have exemptions, but would rather be fired than take the shot. Samsel says it’s unclear right now if those people would qualify for unemployment benefits.

“The level of misconduct has to rise to a pretty significant degree to disqualify someone from unemployment,” Samsel said.

“If for instance in the City and County of Denver there is a vaccine mandate for certain employees, I could see that an employee refusing to get one without a valid exemption could potentially be disqualifying given that it is a legal requirement,” she said. 

Another issue to consider is booster shots. The FDA’s full approval did not include booster shots, so there could be legal challenges to a mandate requiring them.

Samsel says she is advising clients to look at their workforce to see what percent is already vaccinated.

“The first question for employers is just because we can mandate the vaccine, should we?” she said.

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