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

Posted at 6:20 PM, Nov 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-19 16:19:49-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah leaders are preparing to begin distributing a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it becomes available.

There is no plan for a statewide COVID-19 vaccine mandate, Utah leaders have emphasized, but that doesn’t mean employers wont require employees to get vaccinated against the virus.

Read: Frontline healthcare workers could get COVID-19 vaccine by December; all Utahns by July

“Because Utah is an at will state, if your employer wants to put a mandatory vaccine program in place, they could make it a take it or leave it. They could say you either get a vaccine or you don’t have a job here anymore,” Spencer Phillips, Attorney at Employer-Lawyer LLC, said.

There are exceptions however to this, Phillips said.

“If someone has a disability or a sincerely held religious belief that prevents them from getting the vaccine, that is something employers need to look at very seriously,” he said.

People who do have exceptions will have to be offered accommodations by their employers, Phillips said.

“It isn’t just a no and that’s the end of the story. The employer has an obligation to then look at accommodation, you know, maybe we can physically distance in the workplace, maybe you can continue remote working, maybe you can wear a mask or a face shield,” he said.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see many private companies mandate a vaccine, Phillips said, but it is still too early to know.

“I think this is going to be an issue that employment attorneys, business owners, HR professionals are going to be dealing with well into the new year,” he said.

Rules and regulations surrounding COVID-19 are constantly changing, so Phillips said people should keep an open mind as things could change but this is how the law stands right now.