Unvaccinated L.A. city employees could get until mid-December to get their shots

Los Angeles city workers who have yet to get vaccinated for COVID-19 or tell the city that they’re seeking an exemption by Wednesday could have additional time to get the shots under a plan being put forward by city officials.

During that additional time, they would get tested twice a week for the coronavirus — and the cost of the tests would be deducted from their paychecks at $65 per test, according to the plan. The tests would be taken on the employees’ time, not while they were being paid for city work.

If workers still haven’t followed the vaccination rules by the end of Dec. 18, they would face “corrective action.”

The plan now heads to the Los Angeles City Council for its approval. In a report, City Administrative Officer Matt Szabo described it as the “last, best, and final offer” made to labor groups on how the vaccine requirements would work.

L.A. passed an ordinance in August that requires city employees to get vaccinated against COVID unless they are approved for a medical or religious exemption.

Although the municipal ordinance set earlier deadlines for people to get the shots, the vaccination rules do not become conditions of city employment until Wednesday. The law did not spell out what would happen, on that date, to people who refused vaccination. Labor unions have been meeting with city officials for weeks over the new rules.

Under the plan released Tuesday, employees who have not turned in proof that they are fully vaccinated or turned in an exemption request by Wednesday would be sent a notice telling them to turn in proof of vaccination by Dec. 18.

The workers would be required to sign that notice, and failing to comply with its requirements would lead to “immediate corrective action,” according to the plan.

Workers seeking medical or religious exemptions to the vaccination rules would also have to get tested twice a week on their own time and at their own expense while the city assesses their requests. If they are ultimately granted exemptions, the city would reimburse them for the testing costs. If they are turned down, they would have a short period to appeal.

As of Monday, more than 70% of city workers had reported that they were fully vaccinated, 2% said they were partially vaccinated, and 9% said they were not vaccinated. Nearly 18% — more than 9,500 employees — had either declined to state whether they were vaccinated or failed to report their status, according to a city report.

As of last week, more than 1,000 workers in the Los Angeles Fire Department had not reported their vaccination status. In an order, LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas warned employees that failing to report whether they are vaccinated “will be considered insubordination and will result in discipline up to and including discharge.”

Some police and firefighters have sued the city over the vaccination requirements, arguing that the city mandate violates their rights. Many others have sought exemptions from getting the shots: City officials say more than 5,300 city employees are seeking exemptions, including more than 2,000 in the LAPD.

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