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Five Los Angeles County workers filed suit against the County in Los Angeles County Superior Court earlier this week, arguing that the vaccine mandate for all County workers passed in August by the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors is unconstitutional.
On August 4th, LA Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Hilda Solis issued an executive order stating that all 110,000 county workers would need to get vaccinated by October 8th or risk getting fired. While there were exemptions given for religious or medical reasons, it did not offer a testing alternative or other alternatives offered in other mandates in the state. The Board of Supervisors then officially ratified the order on August 10th. Since the employee mandate, LA County has issued numerous other mandates for other workers, with cities such as Los Angeles issuing their own widespread mandates, such as for all teachers and of-age students.
According to the lawsuit, despite the risks and having roughly two months to comply, thousands of employees have still gone unvaccinated.
The plaintiffs, Sanitation Department worker Mohamed Bina, Probation Department employee Enrique Iribe, Department of Public Health worker Shayne Lamont, Sheriff’s Department employees Vincent Tsai and Oscar Rodriguez, and the nonprofit group Protection for the Educational Rights of Kids (PERK), all allege that the County mandate goes beyond the legal limits of the Emergency Services Act, violated California’s open meeting law, and failed to give the public sufficient notice to vaccinate in a timely manner. According to the suit, this made LA County’s mandate unconstitutional.
The suit also noted that the County cannot afford to lose thousands of critical employees all at once and that the order was politically partisan in nature.
“They will risk their jobs rather than violate their conscience and follow a plainly unlawful order,” said the suit against Los Angeles County. “County residents cannot afford to lose thousands of public employees on a whim. They would be unable to obtain critical public services, including social services that kids and families depend on. The county cannot just get rid of the unvaccinated employees who Ms. Solis chastised for not doing their part to end the pandemic.”
“The county must consider and offer reasonable accommodations as a middle ground between individual freedoms and collective rights. It did not do that. Instead, it viewed this sensitive personal issue through the lens of partisan politics. It will have to provide hearings to everybody. It will have to justify each adverse employment action. This will cost an enormous amount of time and money, as thousands of county employees have either chosen not to take the COVID-19 shots.”
“The people of Los Angeles will suffer irreparable harm from the mass termination of county employees, including firefighters, law enforcement, EMTs and other first responders.”
“PERK joined this lawsuit because of the devastating effect the county’s unlawful mandate would have on children and families in Los Angeles.”
Suit “last hope” for County workers wishing to keep job, remain unvaccinated
Unvaccinated city workers told the Globe on Tuesday that the suit is their last hope of keeping their job while also retaining the freedom to choose whether or not to be vaccinated.
“This is our last hope,” explained Juan and Cesar, two LA County employees who did not wish to use their last names, who remain unvaccinated. “We understand the health risks, but we don’t want the shots. And now we may be fired for it.”
“The [lawsuit] really brought out all the reasons we are against the [mandate].”
Cesar, who immigrated from Central America several years ago and became a citizen, further added “One of the reasons I came here was the freedom to choose for myself these things. I didn’t think I would ever see this happen.”
In response to the lawsuit, the County released a statement on Monday.
“While we cannot comment on pending litigation, Los Angeles County is the largest municipal workforce in the nation and we are encouraged that more than 80% of our employees have already registered their vaccination status,” said the statement.
The suit is likely to be heard soon due to the urgency of the matter, with the mandate to fully start this Friday in the County.