By HANNAH SIEVERT
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
The King Estate Winery in Eugene sent out a letter to employees recently, saying they must get the COVID-19 vaccine or they could lose their job.
“We’re very proud, as a company, to put such an emphasis on workplace safety,” Chief Operating Officer Brent Stone said.
The news sparked a lot of reaction from people online who thought it was at best, an employer overstep if not outright illegal.
But Bend business lawyer Jeff Eager said the winery’s requirement is within the letter of the law.
“Yes, most employers can require most employees to get a vaccine,” Eager said.
Eager said there are some exceptions to a vaccine requirement in the workplace, including if the employee raises a religious objection or has a disability.
“The employer would be required to quote on quote reasonably accommodate the disability or religious preferences,” Eager said.
While requiring a vaccine is legal, Eager said he hasn’t heard of any businesses in Central Oregon that are demanding their employees get the shot.
“There surely are other employers out there who are doing it, but it hasn’t been top of mind of the clients that I’ve talked to,” Eager said.
Bend Chamber of Commerce CEO Katy Brooks agrees — she also hasn’t heard of a local business requiring vaccinations.
“I think a lot of employers are asking the question of whether or not to require vaccines,” Brooks said. “I think a lot of them have chosen not to for a lot of reasons, one being it’s just a difficult thing to mandate.”
But she said some businesses may still be considering making it a requirement.
“A lot of employers are just trying to figure out what the right thing to do is right now,” Brooks said. “A lot of them are talking about how to reduce their liability, how to protect their workforce, how to be productive again after a year of really messed up operations.”