Under its new COVID-19 employee policy, all Park District of Oak Park employees must either be fully vaccinated against the virus by Oct. 28 or undergo weekly mandatory testing. The park district board of commissioners unanimously voted Oct. 14 to adopt the policy, which applies to all full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal park district employees.

The park district is not anticipating any backlash from employees regarding the policy, according to Ann Marie Buzek, the park district’s communications manager. Buzek told Wednesday Journal that 90 percent of employees are already fully vaccinated, according to a survey conducted by the park district in September.

“The Park District of Oak Park fully expects staff to comply with the new policy to help protect themselves as well as our participants,” Buzek said.

While the COVID-19 vaccination is free, the park district will pay employees for the time taken to get vaccinated, excluding the time spent commuting to and from vaccination appointments.

“The agency will compensate employees, up to 30 minutes, not yet fully vaccinated for time spent to receive their vaccination(s), either by attending appointments during working hours or reporting time spent at appointments during nonworking hours as hours worked when reporting time,” the policy reads.

The policy also allows employees to submit requests for reimbursement “to the extent there are associated fees for administering the vaccine that are not covered.”

Park district employees, according to the policy, will be considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the second dose of a two-dose vaccination or two weeks after receiving a single dose of a one-dose vaccination, according to the policy.

Those who choose to be vaccinated or have already been vaccinated must submit copies of their vaccination documentation to the park district risk manager by Oct. 28. The policy stipulates that documentation must come from a person or organization certified to administer the vaccine and include the dates of vaccine doses. Documentation should not contain private information related to the vaccinated person’s medical, genetic or family health.

The employees who either cannot be or choose not to be vaccinated will have to spend more time with the park district risk manager than their vaccinated coworkers. In addition to alerting the risk manager of the decision to receive weekly testing by Oct. 28, the policy requires unvaccinated employees to submit COVID-19 test results to the risk manager by 12 p.m. on Thursday each week. Those who fail to do so are not permitted to work on park district premises.

Not being allowed to work onsite does not mean unvaccinated employees are free to simply work from home. Working from home requires advance permission from human resources and not turning in weekly tests could lead to disciplinary actions taken against employees, including discharge, according to the policy. 

Scheduling COVID-19 tests are the responsibility of the individual employee, but the policy allows employees to submit reimbursement requests for any costs related to testing within 30 days of incurring the expense.

An employee’s decision to not get vaccinated isn’t set in stone under the policy. Should any change their minds, the vaccinated employees need only to hand over a copy of their documentation to the risk manager at any time.

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