700 LA city employees may be placed on unpaid leave for refusing to comply with vaccine mandate

Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday that 77 city employees are on unpaid leave and an additional 700 employees are "vulnerable" to be placed on leave within the next two weeks for resisting the city's mandate that municipal employees get vaccinated for COVID-19 by Dec. 18 and submit to testing paid by the employee in the meantime.

"The good news is, overwhelmingly city employees have gotten vaccinated ... 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," Garcetti said Wednesday.

Employee testing is set to begin on Friday, Garcetti said. Under the mandate, unvaccinated employees have to submit to two COVID-19 tests per week, and $65 per test will be deducted from their paychecks.

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Employees have to get tested during their free time, and testing has to be conducted by the city or a vendor of the city's choosing. Third-party tests will not be allowed.

By Dec. 18, everyone is required to be vaccinated or apply for a religious or medical exemption, which will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. If an employee's exemption is approved, testing will be conducted once per week at the city's expense.

Garcetti said department heads, including the chiefs of the fire and police departments, have put 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.

If an exemption request is denied, the employee will have five business days to file an appeal. If they do not appeal the decision, they will be issued a notice that they must submit proof of vaccination. Failure to do so would result in "corrective action."

The employee will be able to either resign or retire "all in good standing in lieu of discipline" if they did not comply with the mandate. Those employees will also be eligible for rehire if they get vaccinated or if the vaccination order is lifted.

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