Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
On August 2, 2021, Denver, Colorado Mayor Michael B. Hancock announced that all city employees, as well as private-sector workers in certain “high-risk” settings, must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by September 30, 2021. After September 30, unvaccinated individuals covered by this mandate will not be permitted to work onsite or in the field. In order to meet this September 30 deadline, employees covered by this requirement must receive their final doses of the vaccine by September 15.
Who is Affected by the Vaccine Mandate?
While a number of municipalities and government entities have recently announced COVID-19 vaccine mandates for their workforces, Denver is the first city in the U.S. to extend the mandate to private businesses and organizations. With the COVID-19 Delta variant surging across much of the nation, the new Public Health Order applies to private-sector workers in high-risk settings along with the city government’s 10,000-plus employees. Denver’s vaccine mandate also applies to volunteers, interns, and contractors of the city. Private-sector employees covered under the new mandate include those working in hospitals and clinical settings, nursing homes, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, childcare centers, schools and post-secondary institutions, and any entity providing home care to patients or first responder services, regardless of whether the entity is public or private.
The Colorado state government also announced last week that all state employees will be required to either get vaccinated by September 20 or undergo twice-weekly COVID-19 tests. Unlike Denver’s vaccine mandate, however, the Colorado state government mandate does not apply to private-sector employees.
Compliance Measures Required of Employers
The City of Denver has announced that it will work closely with employers to provide guidance on enforcement and accountability of this mandate. An online toolkit is available on www.Denvergov.org, including a template letter for employees and a flyer with information for employees. Representatives of the City of Denver have also stated that private businesses and organizations subject to the vaccine requirement will be asked to maintain records to show their compliance. Noncompliance could result in financial penalties or a court summons, and businesses could be issued an administrative citation every day for not complying. We anticipate additional and more specific guidance regarding required action by employers will be issued in the coming weeks.
What About Denver’s Mask Mandate?
Denver’s general mask mandate expired in May 2021, and the city has declined to reimpose the mandate at this juncture, opting instead to enact the vaccine mandate. A limited mask mandate for unvaccinated individuals, however, is in effect for certain establishments, such as medical facilities, homeless shelters, jails, and prisons. This limited mask mandate was expected to expire in June, but will now expire September 1, unless it is extended for a third time. Several counties in the Denver metro area have also recently mandated masks in schools.
Still, the city’s position regarding the new vaccine mandate is that masking is “no substitute for what we need – more people must get vaccinated.” To be sure, the city continues to urge vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals to wear masks when indoors.
What Does This Mean for Colorado Employers?
Denver’s vaccine mandate applies to private sector employers in certain high-risk settings only, as defined in the Denver Public Health Order. Employers covered by the mandate should closely monitor denvergov.org for any additional guidance to ensure compliance with the mandate to avoid potential consequences.