One of Oregon’s largest wineries has told its workers they must show proof they’ve received the COVID-19 vaccine by May 20. Many workplaces are considering similar requirements as pandemic restrictions loosen.
King Estate Winery is on more than a thousand acres outside Eugene. Chief Operating Officer Brent Stone said it’s like a small city, with about 70 employees and workers in close quarters on bottling lines. He said the winery is concerned about workplace safety and preventing an outbreak of the virus.
“I think that’s really what drove our most recent ask,” Stone said. “But, it’s coming from a really good place, in our minds. It’s really intended to be supportive and not punitive by any means.”
Stone said King Estate has offered on-site vaccination clinics and an additional vacation day as incentive, as well as paid sick time for recovery from the vaccine. During the pandemic, workers have been given weekly food boxes and the winery boosted its minimum wage to $15 an hour.
University of Oregon Law School Associate Professor Liz Tippet said that, for the most part, employers can require their workers to get the vaccine, with some exemptions. But she expects most will not go that far. On the other hand, she said, it’s in people’s interest to get the vaccine, especially those who interact a lot with others in the workplace.
“Particularly when things start opening up and eventually when mask mandates are lifted,” Tippet said. " If you’re a worker who interacts with a lot of people and suddenly you’re in a situation where people aren’t wearing masks anymore, you’re going to be really vulnerable if you’re not vaccinated.”
Tippet also said that coworkers and family members would also be more at risk for infection from that unvaccinated worker.
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