BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Thom Mason on Monday issued an update for staff and contractors on mandatory COVID-19 vaccination exemptions and deadlines. Mason said that since the mandate, some 1,000 additional employees and contractors have received vaccination or submitted a copy of their vaccination card.
“This is very encouraging, and I thank each of them for making this decision that I recognize was difficult for some. During this same period, a number of medical and religious exemption requests have been processed. A small number of medical exemptions have been granted and we are working to put in place appropriate accommodations as prescribed by the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) to protect the health of these individuals and their coworkers,” Mason said.
Mason said the medical accommodation will be communicated to managers of employees who have been granted medical exemptions.
“We are also processing a larger number of religious exemption requests. After careful consideration of the most current data regarding infection rates and modeling projections of the likely future course of the pandemic, I have made the decision that the only accommodation the Laboratory can provide at this time for those granted religious exemptions is to take vacation or leave without pay (LWOP) effective Oct. 15,” he said.
On Oct. 15, staff who have been granted a religious exemption will be placed on LWOP status or may use vacation until the Laboratory determines the threat of COVID-19 has diminished sufficiently to allow them to return to work,” the announcement said.
“I realize that this decision has implications for those who have sought a religious exemption, and that the remaining timeframe for making a decision to get vaccinated is quickly approaching. All employees who begin the vaccination series prior to Oct. 1 will be able to continue employment while becoming fully vaccinated, provided they comply with all requirements related to COVID-19, including prompt completion of the vaccination process.,” Mason said.
If employees have not begun the vaccination process or applied for an exemption prior to Oct. 1, he said LANL will start the process for termination of employment effective Oct. 15.
“Some employees who initially decided not to become vaccinated may change their minds and receive their first shot between Oct. 1–15. These employees will not be terminated, but will be placed on LWOP or vacation until fully vaccinated, which occurs two weeks after the last shot of the series,” Mason said.
He said LANL will continue to reach out to unvaccinated employees but that if no response is received by Oct. 1, it will be assumed that the employee has chosen not to continue employee with the Laboratory and the termination process will begin.
“These decisions are in the best interests of public health and best protect our most valuable asset—our workforce. These provisions apply to all employees regardless of duty station, including those who are teleworking. The Laboratory offers resources to support you during this challenging time. Your continued vigilance and understanding is appreciated as we continue through this ongoing and unpredictable pandemic,” Mason said.
The Los Alamos Reporter reached out to LANL to ask how many employees or contractors remain unvaccinated and received the following statement:
“To ensure that our employees continue to have a safe working environment well into the future, Triad is requiring all employees and on-site contractors and subcontractors to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 15. Over 90 percent of our employees have already received at least one dose of the vaccine, and that number continues to grow. Vaccination is in the best interest of public health and best protects our most valuable asset—our workforce.”