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Some Utah businesses will require employees to get vaccinated

Posted at 5:38 PM, Mar 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-16 19:38:44-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Inside an old post office building in Sugar House, Kimi's Chop & Oyster House is finding ways to safely serve up their signature dishes. The owner, Kimi Eklund, said the focus since re-opening has been all about safety.

“We have taken extra precautions. I think over and above maybe what the guidelines have been to keep everyone safe,” she said.

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It has been a challenging and exhausting, yet uplifting year, Eklund said. It has been amazing to see how many people have cared and stepped up to help, as well as the PPP loans and local grants which helped keep the business afloat, she said.

“Without any of that, I don’t think there would be a restaurant alive today,” she said.

READ: West Jordan craft store barely hanging on; owner hopes for PPP money

Now, as Utah prepares to open vaccine eligibility to all adults across the state next month, Eklund said she is excited for the future.

“I think everyone understands it is something we are doing to keep ourselves safe,” she said.

READ: Health departments 'surprised' by Gov. Cox April 1 vaccine announcement

“I believe for the benefit of my employees, as well as the benefit of my guests, that it is really important that my guests feel like they can come to a safe environment and that my employees feel like they can work in a safe environment,” she said.

There are incentives as well being offered to them, Eklund said.

“They will get $100 for each person that is living with them in their household who gets vaccinated as well,” she said.

READ: Employment lawyer: Utah employers can require employees to get COVID-19 vaccine

In Utah, employers have the right to require employees to get vaccinated if they wish to continue with their job, Human Resources (HR) attorney, Spencer Phillips, said

“Really what it comes down to is Utah is an at-will state, so if the employers has a rule that the employee is not comfortable with they are welcome and free to go find another job that fits better with their needs,” he said.

There are exceptions such as medical or religious reasons which could have an employee exempt, Phillips said. Employers may also offer employees options if they don’t get vaccinated such as requiring them to continuing to wear a mask, Phillips suggested. People are allowed to say ‘no’ and leave for another job.

“What I am encouraging businesses to do is they can tell their employees ‘we encourage you to get the vaccine’ but not to make it mandatory. There are a lot of reasons employees may not feel comfortable getting the vaccine,” he said.

While Eklund is aware of the exceptions, she said she has spoken with her employees and they seem to be on-board with her vaccination requirement, she said. While customers will never need to show proof of a vaccine, she does plan to offer a free appetizer or other incentive to those who show off their vaccine card.

“I think everyone needs to take their part in this,” she said.