Almost 80 Los Angeles city employees have been put on leave without pay after refusing to adhere to the city’s mandate to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by December, according to LA Mayor Eric Garcetti.
As of Nov. 17, 77 city employees have been put on leave after declining to sign notices that instruct employees to get vaccinated by Dec. 18, Garcetti said in a briefing, with 700 more city employees at risk of joining them on unpaid leave.
Garcetti, in his first public appearance since recovering from COVID-19, urged LA residents to get vaccinated, get booster shots and inoculate their children against the virus.
Garcetti touted the high rate of employees already vaccinated, with around 77 percent of employees having taken the vaccine according to data from the mayor’s office released Oct. 27.
“The good news is, overwhelmingly city employees have gotten vaccinated,” Garcetti said. “And I want to be clear the vaccine mandate is not about getting rid of employees. My goal is to keep every employee and to keep every employee safe.”
In the meantime, beginning on Nov. 19, unvaccinated workers are to get COVID-19 tests twice a week at their own expense, deducted from their paychecks. Each test will cost $65, which would add up to $260 per two-week pay period.
Employees will be exempt from the vaccine requirement if they submit a religious or medical vaccine exemption by the Dec. 18 deadline. The exemptions will be reviewed and granted on a case-by-case basis.
If the exemption is approved, the employee will undergo COVID-19 testing once per week at the city’s expense.
If the exemption is denied, the employee must file an appeal within five business days. If they don’t appeal, they will be issued a notice that they must submit proof of vaccination, and failure to comply will result in “corrective action” by the city.
The employee must either resign or retire “all in good standing in lieu of discipline” if they did not get vaccinated; those employees will be eligible for rehire if they get vaccinated or if the vaccine mandate is lifted.
Of the employee shortage likely to follow such mandates, Garcetti said city department heads, including fire department and police department heads, are putting together plans to ensure coverage when employees are on leave.
“It may cost us some money up front, but it has cost us a lot of money to lose people to COVID when they’re out. That has cost us arguably even more,” Garcetti said.
Some department heads, including Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, say they refuse to enforce the vaccine mandate in their departments. Villanueva says the vaccine mandate puts him in a difficult position where he faces losing more employees at a time when the police force is already struggling with staffing issues due to the “defund the police” movement.
“I’m not forcing anyone. The issue has become so politicized,” Villanueva said last month. “There are entire groups of employees that are willing to be fired and laid off rather than get vaccinated, so I don’t want to be in a position to lose 5 to 10 percent of my workforce overnight on a vaccine mandate.”
City Employee Reactions
Some city employees are bringing lawsuits against the city, saying that employees have the right to choose whether to get vaccinated.
A group of 871 LA Fire Department (LAFD) employees filed a notice of intent to sue the city, seeking $2.5 million each in damages.
LAFD employee John Knox, who is also a spokesperson for group Firefighters 4 Freedom, told The Epoch Times in a previous interview that exemption on a case-by-case basis gives the government too much power.
“Even though they basically said that if the exemption process is a burden to the city, they have the ability to send us home with no pay … or terminate us. We still have 450 members that have applied for exemptions,” Knox said.
“The city has to have a place to put us in order to do that, but then you also have 27 other [city] departments with people filing for exemptions as well. LAPD has 2,600 exemptions that have been filed. You tell me where they’re going to put all those people. There is no way there are 2,600 open jobs in the city.”
Garcetti’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.