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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

113 Los Angeles firefighters take unpaid leave for vaccine failure

More than 100 Los Angeles city firefighters have been released from duty without payment for failing to comply with city vaccination requirements, authorities said.

In November, the Los Angeles Fire Department sent out 222 firefighters notices stating that they would be sent home free of charge if they did not receive the vaccine or request an exemption, an LAFD spokeswoman said.

As of Monday, 113 firefighters had not responded to these notifications, she said. They were exempted from duty without pay, but would be allowed to use vacation hours or overtime to compensate for lost wages.

In August, the city ordered its employees to get vaccinated unless they demand an exception for medical or religious reasons. Those who did neither before December 18, including firefighters, will eventually be fired, an LAFD spokeswoman said.

“The number of firefighters transferred after hours changes every day as members update their (vaccine status),” Los Angeles officials said in a statement. “This number will fluctuate.”

The union representing firefighters, United Firefighters of Los Angeles City Local 112, has asked the court for a preliminary injunction to prevent execution of the order, saying it could result in the firing of hundreds of firefighters.

But last week a Los Angeles Superior Court judge denied the request.

The judge said that even if all unvaccinated LAFD employees decide to leave due to vaccination requirements, the department has ample contingency plans. In addition, she noted that COVID-19 disrupted the work of the agency and led to the death of two firefighters.

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More than 3,340 sworn firefighters and LAFD paramedics. The department recently admitted 54 recruits, and another class, which began in November, is expected to reach March, LAFD officials said.

According to a newsletter sent to union members, the union, which did not send multiple messages for comment, also has unfair labor practices allegations pending review by the City of Los Angeles Employee Relations Board.

“While we are disappointed with the outcome, we will continue to fight to protect the rights of all UFLAC members,” the bulletin says.

As of Monday, a total of 321 unvaccinated jurors and civilians have applied for medical or religious exemptions, according to an LAFD spokeswoman. So far, none of them have been submitted or rejected.

Officials were unable to estimate how long it might take to process the cases, but the process could drag on beyond the December 18 deadline.

The union has not challenged the constitutionality of the mandate in court, but claims the city government does not comply with the negotiation procedures.

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