San Diego city officials announced on Thursday that 86 city employees were given ‘advanced firing notices’ for either not updating their vaccination status or claiming a religious or medical exemption following receiving pre-termination letters last month.
San Diego first announced mandatory vaccinations for city workers in August, setting a November deadline. The deadline brought the vaccination level to above 80% for all city workers, with a follow up emergency order in late November that officially set the mandate to begin on December 1st, with city contractors receiving a January 3rd date. Workers had a final 30 days to comply, with over 2,000 receiving pre-termination letters in early December.
The San Diego City Council passed the final mandate in early December largely due to COVID-19 transmission and safety concerns, with Mayor Todd Gloria noting that “The way out of this pandemic is through vaccines — and the city of San Diego will lead by example. With city employees regularly interacting with members of the public, this vaccination mandate takes on even more necessity — not only to protect the public, but also to protect our city workers.”
While more employees received vaccinations during the previous month, a large number who received the December letter opted for either religious or medical exemptions. On Monday, of the roughly 11,300 city employees, 9,695 were fully vaccinated with 1,095 under exemption request. An unknown number took leave without pay, retired, or resigned. 86 still remained having done none of the options, receiving notifications.
“Those employees will be provided with all due process rights and rights to representation,” said San Diego city communications director Nicole Darling in a statement on Thursday, “They will receive a hearing with a [due process rights] officer. For classified employees who have civil service rights, if termination continues to be recommended following the hearing, the employee will be issued a notice of termination.
“Employees who updated their vaccination status or applied for a medical or religious exemption did not receive the termination notice. Several employees also submitted requests for leave without pay, which is a process handled through the personnel department and the civil service commission.”
86 city workers facing firing
According to the city, those 86 employees will still have time between now and final termination letters to become fully vaccinated and not be fired.
Some city workers who avoided taking the vaccine told the Globe on Friday that the city remains hesitant to fire anyone, and that even with growing pressure, the final few dozens of employees will likely to continue to hold out.
“I know a few of them,” Sharon, a San Diego city worker who asked to remain anonymous, told the Globe on Friday. “They aren’t going to give in now. A lot of us were hoping for a big court decision by Christmas, but it never happened. But these final few people don’t want to do any of this, and the few I know feel like they’re taking a stand. You can’t really convince anyone when they reach that point.”
“The city also keeps giving these ‘you’re not fired yet’ letters, and to a lot of us it seems that while they want everyone vaccinated or at least exempted, they really don’t want to fire someone and face several lawsuits. This whole thing has lawsuit written all over it, and the city seems to know this.”
“Those final employees, at least the ones I know, are now pretty unflinching on where they stand. It’s just a matter of waiting to see if the city will actually fire them or if they’ll just give another warning.”
City employee firings are expected to be clarified later this month.
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