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Expert discusses what constitutes COVID-19 vaccine exemptions

‘The employee must have a sincerely held religious belief.’
Published: Oct. 6, 2021 at 10:06 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - In some cases getting a vaccine is a personal choice. Though when it comes to the workforce, many employers are now asking workers to get the shot or get out.

But, like most rules, there are always a few exceptions. In the cases of the COVID-19 vaccine, there are two: medical and religious.

“The employee must have a sincerely held religious belief,” said Thom Cope a long-time employment attorney. “The employer has every right to vet that.”

The vetting process is not uniform, Cope says cases having to do with religious exemption are often handled on a case-by-case basis.

“Its all over the board, you can get a letter from pastor or rabbi, go online and show religious belief is held for a long time.” said Cope.

If an employee granted a religious exemption, Cope says they will often be asked to take other preventative measures.

“They can say, ‘Alright, you don’t have to get the vaccination but, you do have to wear a mask and you do have to get tested once or twice a week,’” said Cope.

Medical exemptions also operate case-by-case.

“Lets assume you’re immunocompromised or your pregnant and your doctor says don’t get a vaccine if you’re pregnant, then you’ve got a valid reason for not getting a vaccination at that time,” said Cope.

He says most of the time a doctor’s note will suffice. If you are granted a medical exemption, under the American Disabilities Act, an employer is legally required to give an employee an accommodation.

KOLD News 13 reached out to the Pima County Attorney’s Office for an interview about what led to approval or denial of exemption for some Pima County workers. They denied the request.

Copyright 2021 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.