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Workplaces Weigh COVID Vaccine Requirements

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Jenny Ulum
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King Estate Winery

 

One of Oregon’s largest wineries has told its workers they must show proof they’ve received the COVID-19 vaccine by May 20th. Many workplaces are considering this as pandemic restrictions loosen.

  

King Estate Winery is on more than 1,000 acres outside Eugene. Chief Operating Officer Brent Stone said, with about 70 employees, it’s like a small city, with workers in close quarters on bottling lines. He said the winery is concerned about workplace safety and preventing an outbreak of the virus.
 “I think that’s really what drove our most recent ask," Stone said. "But, it’s coming from a really good place, in our minds. It’s really intended to be supportive and not punitive by any means.”

Stone said they’ve offered on-site vaccination clinics, and an additional vacation day as incentive as well as paid sick time for recovery from the vaccine. During the pandemic, workers have been given weekly food boxes and the winery boosted its minimum wage to $15 an hour.

University  of Oregon Law School Associate Professor Liz Tippet said, for the most part, employers can require their workers to get the vaccine, with some exemptions. But she expects most will not go that far. On the other hand, she saidit’s in people’s interest to get the vaccine, especially those who interact a lot with others in the workplace.

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Credit Rachael McDonald
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It's unclear if many workplaces will require proof of COVID-19 vaccination. But employers can make it mandatory with some exceptions under state and federal law.

  

“Particularly when things start opening up and eventually when mask mandates are lifted,” Tippet said. “ If you’re a worker who interacts with a lot of people and suddenly you’re in a situation where people aren’t wearing masks anymore, you’re going to be really vulnerable if you’re not vaccinated.”

Tippet added coworkers and family members would also be more at risk for infection from that unvaccinated worker. 

 
Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries on state policy for COVID-19 vaccines and the workplace.

 

Copyright 2021 KLCC.

 

Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s former News Director. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000. After reporting for the Northwest News Network and KAZU, Rachael returned to KLCC in 2007 as Morning Edition host and a general assignment reporter covering politics, the environment, education, and the arts. She was hired as KLCC News Director in 2018. Rachael departed KLCC in June, 2022.
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