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Lawyer expects increase in calls over vaccines mandates

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Posted at 6:11 PM, Aug 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-24 18:20:03-04

ANNAPOLIS, Md (WMAR) — "Really my job is to put people to work," said Ottobar owner Tecla Tesnau.

Tesnau is focused on keeping her staff employed and her patrons safe.

"If I can provide the safest working environment for them as possible, it definitely hinges on if we have a crowd inside whose safety we can ensure as well," said Tesnau.

That's why she decided to do what she believes will soon be the industry standard: requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to go to a show.

"That’s to make sure I can have shows and we aren’t going to be facing a shut down any time soon, which means that I can employ my staff, that I can employ my sound staff, my bartenders, my security staff, my production crew," said Tesnau.

Like many business owners, she was also thrust into this conversation about mandating vaccines for employees. She ultimately decided not to and still, the majority of her staff chose to get the shots.

"They should be able to have the agency to make the decision of what’s best for them," said Tesnau.

Doctors and lawyers predict that the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will encourage more employers to mandate it. The president even called on private companies to set up vaccine requirements.

"I call on you now to do it, require it," said President Joe Biden.

Labor and employment lawyer Joyce Smithey said even before full approval, it was legal, and she’s gotten hundreds of calls from employees.

"The majority are people who simply didn’t trust the process," said Smithey, the founding partner of Smithey Law Group.

She said the most common employers are private schools and medical facilities.

Businesses have to accommodate people with disability or religious exemptions and she said if you don’t have a legal exemption, it’s still worth reaching out to your boss or human resources department because she has seen many businesses still try to make accommodations.

"If you’re willing to get the PCR test, wear the masks, some people are willing to work from home and continue teleworking, have the conversation. You may not be able to have a lawsuit if you don’t get what you want but you may be able to negotiate something that’s workable for you," said Smithey.

Key School, a private, progressive pre-k through grade 12 school in Annapolis was ahead of the curve. They required proof of vaccination for staff as a condition of continued employment on August 6 "as a measure to provide a safe workplace for faculty and staff, and in an effort to ensure the safety of our students and their families... This policy is in recognition of the direct threat COVID-19 poses to the health and safety of individuals in the workplace," said Head of School Matthew Nespole.

Faculty and staff who could be exempt from this policy will undergo weekly testing.