Los Angeles could end COVID vaccination rule for city employees

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Los Angeles could soon end its requirement for city employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

City officials are recommending that the Los Angeles City Council halt the requirement as soon as early June, according to a newly released report. The COVID vaccination rule was first approved by city leaders nearly three years ago as public health officials urged vaccination to protect people from the coronavirus.

In a report, City Administrative Officer Matt Szabo noted that other local government agencies — including the cities of Long Beach and San Diego and Los Angeles County — had stopped requiring COVID vaccination as a condition of employment. Szabo said L.A. employee groups had not opposed ending the requirement.

The L.A. ordinance defined “fully vaccinated” as workers having received either one dose of a single shot vaccine, such as the Johnson & Johnson shot, or both doses of a vaccine that required two shots, such as the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, but said the definition “may be expanded” if health officials required boosters. Under the city ordinance, workers could seek an exemption if they had “a medical condition or restriction or sincerely held religious beliefs.”

If city leaders approve ending the requirements, employees who resigned or were terminated because of the vaccination rule may be eligible to be rehired in the same positions as before.

Eighty-six city workers were terminated under the rule, Szabo said; it is unclear how many employees resigned over the COVID vaccination requirement because they do not have to report their reasons.

Los Angeles has faced numerous lawsuits over its COVID vaccination rule. In one of the latest suits, filed last week in federal court, a woman formerly employed as a city accountant said she was denied a religious exemption from the vaccination requirement and ultimately discharged from her position. She accused the city of discrimination, saying it had ignored its policy of “accommodating sincerely held religious beliefs.”

The move to halt the vaccination requirements comes as the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has seen a slight uptick in COVID cases, although they cautioned that it was too soon to say if it would become a sustained increase.

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