Workers face losing jobs as vaccine mandate deadline looms

Governor Kate Brown's mandate requires any health care worker, educator, or state worker to show proof of vaccination or get an exemption approved by October 18.

Posted: Oct 17, 2021 7:08 PM
Updated: Oct 17, 2021 8:58 PM

EUGENE, Ore.—The deadline for the vaccination mandate is Monday, and hundreds across the state may lose their job if they do not show proof of vaccination or get an approved exemption.

RELATED: AS OREGON VACCINE MANDATE DEADLINE LOOM, CORRECTIONS WORKERS ARE NEARLY 80% VACCINATED

Governor Kate Brown first announced the mandate for state workers on August 10. She later expanded it to include health care workers and educators on August 19.

State employee "John" works at the Department of Human Services.

"They would wish for me to disclose my medical information, which I feel is a slippery slope down a bad path," John said.

John doesn't support the vaccine mandate and is in limbo right now as he waits to see if his religious exemption will be approved on Monday.

"My abilities to do my job have not changed one iota, but you are going to fire me on something I can't read a five-year report on," John said.

As of last month, more than 2,000 Oregon state workers filed an exemption. Of those, 90% were religious requests.

John said he never imagined he might be out of a job because of a medical choice.

"Our government should always be the 'you are free to do what you wish, but we would like for you to do this,'" John said.

Employers can ask additional questions to determine the sincerity of someone's religious exemption claim. But lawyers said suggesting a claim is unreasonable becomes more complicated.

MORE: SCHOOL DISTRICTS PREPARING FOR STAFF VACCINATION DEADLINE

For John, he's just hoping he can keep his job during this difficult time. He said if his exemption is denied, the DHS will give him another six weeks to get fully vaccinated.

Some people told KEZI 9 News the mandate is a good thing, saying everyone should get the shot to keep them and those around them safe.

"It doesn't make sense to not mandate it; we kind of have to," said health care student Lizzie Wilson.

Wilson said she believes the mandate is necessary. But others said these mandates are taking away their freedom.

"I don't feel like anyone should have to be forced to do anything, especially here in America -- we are free, and we should have the ability to choose what we want to do," said Eugene resident Jeremy Crowder.

Despite the mandate deadline approaching, Lane County said they have not seen an uptick these past few weeks in first or second doses. They said people getting their shots were primarily for Pfizer booster doses.

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