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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

LA not to pay firefighters who refuse vaccines during termination proceedings, judge rules

LOS ANGELES — A judge on Tuesday denied a preliminary injunction sought by a group of Los Angeles firefighters who sued the city for refusing to vaccinate against the coronavirus pending a trial pending a possible termination hearing. was asked to pay.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael P. Linfield delivered his final ruling a day after hearing arguments in a lawsuit filed by the nonprofit Firefighters4Freedom Foundation on Sept. 17.

The group alleged that the city’s directive, among other things, violated their members’ constitutionally protected right to privacy.

After hearing arguments, Linfield, speaking in front of an audience that included some firefighters, presented the case and issued his decision Tuesday morning.

“The Court finds that the balance of damages is against the granting of the preliminary injunction,” the judge wrote. “The plaintiff has not demonstrated significant irreparable harm necessary to engage a public entity in the performance of its duties.”

Linfield’s final decision reflected the conclusions he made when he issued a provisional decision on Sunday.

City Attorney Mike Feuer praised the ruling, the third recent decision involving unsuccessful challenges to a city worker vaccine order made by firefighters and the LAPD union.

“For the third time this month, my office has successfully countered a misguided attempt to circumvent the vaccine mandate – an effort that would have put the health of the public and fellow first responders at risk,” Feuer said.

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“In the strongest terms yet, this Court outlines the emergency that we continue to face. Beyond this litigation, with COVID cases doubling in just a few days, I fully appreciate all Angelinos I urge you to get immunizations and booster shots. We are indebted to each other a lot.”

Attorney Scott J. Street, appearing for the firefighters, told the judge during arguments Monday that his client was not asking that the vaccination ordinance not be enforced or that firefighters who were on leave without vaccinations be put back on duty. They said they just wanted to continue with the payments while they await the hearing of their termination proceedings.

“What they really need is their livelihood, their paycheck,” Street said.

But deputy city attorney Jennifer Gregg countered that under the emergency coronavirus declaration made by the city, there was a specific finding that the city lacked funds to pay for their replacements without vaccinations while paying overtime.

The judge said he understands the financial burden and loss experienced by unvaccinated firefighters on unpaid leave, but on balance, health and safety are given priority.

The judge wrote, “More importantly, any harm to firefighters refusing vaccination would allow the lives of more than a hundred illiterate firefighters to live, eat and sleep with fellow firefighters in more than 106 city firefighters- The threat far outweighs the damage.” ,

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