Relief funds flow

Last week the Wyoming Business Council began disbursing grants from the new Hospitality Loss Relief Program, and a number of Jackson Hole establishments were among initial recipients.

Among the valley establishments approved for the payments, which are intended to ease the pain of the governor’s pandemic-motivated 10 p.m. closure order, are the Stagecoach Bar, Hole Bowl, Mill Iron Ranch, The Rose and Silver Dollar Inc., which operates the Silver Dollar and the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar.

Under the Hospitality Loss Relief Program, bars, taverns, restaurants or hotels that derive their primary revenue between the hours of 10 p.m. to 5 p.m. from on-premises sales and consumption are eligible for up to $50,000 to cushion the early closure order’s blow to businesses and their employees.

“This relief is meant to help businesses make up for lost wages and tips earned by their workers, as well as to help ease the burden of lost business during this holiday season,” Gov. Mark Gordon said in a press release.

More than 100 businesses throughout the state filed applications for the program.

The press release said the recipients “have certified that they will comply with all applicable public health orders during the closure period.”

The businesses also agreed to “continue to employ and pay their employees who would otherwise be working during the reduced hours, inclusive of estimated tips.”

Gordon expressed sympathy for all: “We have always recognized the challenges posed to those businesses affected by these orders, as well as the hardships faced by the people who work in them.”

The eligible time frame for applications was Dec. 9 to 30 even though the governor’s order runs through Jan. 8.

That’s because the program uses federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds, and the act does not permit reimbursement of losses or expenditures beyond Dec. 30, according to the Business Council.

EEOC vaccine guidance

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission clarified that employers can require workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to the workplace.

The EEOC’s guidance can be found at TinyURL.com/yb7c7qcl.

It says the Americans with Disabilities Act “requires that any mandatory medical test of employees be ‘job related and consistent with business necessity.’ Applying this standard to the current circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers may take screening steps to determine if employees entering the workplace have COVID-19 because an individual with the virus will pose a direct threat to the health of others.

“Therefore an employer may choose to administer COVID-19 testing to employees before initially permitting them to enter the workplace and/or periodically to determine if their presence in the workplace poses a direct threat to others.”

The ADA, it said, “allows an employer to have a qualification standard that includes ‘a requirement that an individual shall not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of individuals in the workplace.’”

The employer must show that an unvaccinated employee would pose a direct threat due to a “significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual or others that cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.”

Reasonable accommodation would include remote work.

“If an employee cannot get vaccinated for COVID-19 because of a disability or sincerely held religious belief, practice or observance, and there is no reasonable accommodation possible, then it would be lawful for the employer to exclude the employee from the workplace,” the EEOC said. ‘This does not mean the employer may automatically terminate the worker. Employers will need to determine if any other rights apply under the EEO laws or other federal, state, and local authorities.”

— Jennifer Dorsey

Jennifer Dorsey is chief copy editor and Business section coordinator. She worked in Washington, D.C., and Chicago before moving to the Tetons.

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