Hundreds of Denver workers ask for COVID vaccine exemption

Local News

DENVER (KDVR) — Hundreds of City of Denver employees are resisting the imposed COVID-19 vaccination requirement, with the deadline to be fully vaccinated weeks away.

Mayor Michael Hancock announced last month all city employees as well as private-sector workers in high-risk settings, will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 30.

Employees had until the end of August to submit a form for a medical or religious exemption. Data from the city shows 408 safety employees turned in forms by the deadline. Their breakdown shows:

  • Denver Police Department: 199
  • Denver Fire Department: 111
  • Denver Sheriff Department: 67
  • Department of Safety: 13
  • 911 Emergency Communications: 10
  • N/A: 8

About 85% of exemptions requested in the Department of Safety are for religious reasons. The city attorney’s office is working through the forms. As of Wednesday, the office had granted 235 exemptions and denied eight. 

Among all city employees, 799 submitted exemptions. As of Thursday, 376 were approved, 55 denied and the rest under investigation.

Denver attorney Bryan Kuhn specializes in business and employment law. He says employers can legally ask for proof of certain medical conditions and religious beliefs.

“There is a duty for the employer to provide a safe workplace for all employees so they’re looking at it from that perspective,” said Kuhn.

Kuhn says from a legal perspective, providing proof of a medical condition is not new territory. He compared it to the process of providing proof of a disability. But asking for and providing proof of religious beliefs may be more difficult.

“Employers have to be cautious with that. I think it’s fair to ask in-depth, probing and tough questions. On the other hand, if you go too far with it, it could become illegally discriminating,” said Kuhn.

Kuhn expects to see more unlawful termination claims filed in the coming weeks and months as employers push for their staff to be fully vaccinated.

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