Since Boulder County began a mandate for a coronavirus vaccine in late September, a total of 118 employees have applied for a medical or religious waiver from the vaccine and all but four employees have been approved.
The Boulder County Board of Commissioners passed the COVID-19 vaccine mandate on Sept. 28, said Boulder County Administrator Jana Petersen. Employees may be fired if they are not fully vaccinated or have not applied for a religious or medical exemption before December 1.
Petersen said Boulder County Public Health, Boulder County Sheriff’s Office and Boulder County District Attorney’s Office implemented their own COVID-19 vaccine mandates before the mandate was passed by county commissioners.
There are 2,100 employees who must meet this mandate, she said.
Petersen said 94 of the 114 approved workers received religious exemptions.
“We had a form that people had to fill out to ask people about their faith,” she said. “They were reviewed by the prosecutor and (human relations) to ensure we were in compliance with the law.”
Before the COVID-19 vaccine, the province already offered what it calls medical or religious “accommodations.” Petersen said medical facilities are often requested for temporary conditions. The county receives an average of 45 housing requests per year, excluding this year’s requests for the COVID-19 vaccine, she said.
“Our most common (reason) is something like orthopedic surgery,” she said. “Usually it is temporary. It could be someone who has been told not to drive and driving is required for work, or someone who is pregnant and needs shelter.”
To be approved for medical accommodation, a person must provide written documentation signed by a licensed medical provider.
The Religious Accommodation Application Form asks employees to identify their “sincerely held religious belief, practice, or adherence” that prevents them from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. They are also asked if they have received any other vaccines in the past and why their religion has not banned those vaccines if they have received them.
Julia Larsen, director of human resources for Boulder County, said religious adjustments have been requested in the past. An example of religious accommodation would be if an employee’s religion requires them to pray throughout the workday, she said.
The four workers who were not approved for housing had applied for religious reasons, Larsen said. She couldn’t say why they weren’t approved.
“There is no general reason for a county to refuse accommodation,” she said.
Larsen said she is not aware of Boulder County employees who are quitting because of the vaccine mandate or because of the housing requests that have been granted.
She added that some human relations workers have asked if they can get accommodation that will not allow them to work alongside an unvaccinated worker.
That housing has not been granted.
“We are taking steps to keep the workplace safe,” Larsen said. “The employee being accommodated must be masked at all times and must be tested regularly.”