LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (KRQE) – Los Alamos National Laboratory is putting its foot down on its vaccine mandate for employees with a new deadline for them to be fully vaccinated by October 15. It also has a new policy for those who were granted religious exemptions.

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LANL announced it was mandating vaccines back in August. However, in a recent announcement sent to staff, starting October 15, people granted religious exemptions will need to go on unpaid leave or take vacation until pandemic conditions improve. Local attorneys said this is likely okay.

“Such a decision is probably legal if the employer feels and has enough scientific and rational scientific evidence to support its position, that the employee could be a physical risk to other employees in the workplace,” said Steve Granberg, an employment and civil rights attorney at Steve Granberg Attorney at Law.

In the announcement to staff, LANL’S director said they are processing a large number of religious exemption requests and that based on modeling projections of the likely future course of the pandemic, having those with a religious exemption on leave or vacation is the only accommodation the lab can provide.

Local attorneys said it can be tricky for employers to authenticate religious exemption requests. “Employers can get some information but how far they could go is still a gray area,” said Granberg.

In a statement LANL said:

“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.”

For employees who have not started the vaccination process or have requested exemption by October 1, LANL will start the termination process to go into effect on October 15. Employees who may change their minds and start the vaccination process from October 1 through October 15 will go on unpaid leave until they are fully vaccinated.