City: Roughly half of employees’ vaccine exemption requests approved
TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - We are getting the first look at the medical and religious COVID-19 vaccine exemptions filed by city of Tucson employees.
The city council on Tuesday, Sept. 28, unanimously voted to move ahead with its vaccine mandate after a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled that a series of laws passed by the state legislature were unconstitutional.
Under the mandate, city employees are required to either get vaccinated or apply for exemptions. If granted, the unvaccinated employees will be required to wear a mask while on duty and be tested weekly.
According to the documents released to KOLD News on Friday, Oct. 1, more than 620 employees filed for exemptions.
The Tucson Police Department (194) and Tucson Fire Department (192) had the largest number of requests, but that is no surprise as they are also the city’s largest departments.
TPD has 1,039 full-time employees, TFD has 658 and the next closest is Tucson Water with 495 full-timers.
For TFD, 77 employees were granted a religious accommodation, 17 were denied and six cases are still under review. For the medical exemptions for TFD, 40 were granted, 48 were rejected and four cases are under review.
That trend plays out across the board. Religious accommodations were approved significantly more frequently than medical exemptions.
For TPD, 67 employees were granted a religious accommodation, 17 were denied and one case is under review. For the medical exemptions, 33 were granted, 69 were rejected and seven cases are under review.
There was only one department that didn’t have a single employee request an exemption of any kind -- Planning and Development Services. The department of Mayor and City Council, City Manager and City Public Defender each had only one employee file a request.
Overall, the city granted more religious accommodations/medical exemptions than it rejected. According to the summary, 314 were approved, 289 were denied and 24 are still under review.
The city said 102 employees requested both a religious accommodation and medical exemption and that 77 were approved for religion and 26 were approved for medical.
According to City Attorney Mike Rankin, employees “have been notified of the outcome of their request.”
Employees who have not been vaccinated yet or didn’t get an exemption, have until 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 5, to get the first dose.
“Employees (who) do not comply with these requirements will be considered in violation of the policy,” Rankin wrote in an email sent to KOLD.
When the mandate was first passed Aug. 13, the city council discussed possible penalties for non-compliance. Some of the consequences mentioned were: suspension without pay, restricted business travel, weekly testing and mandatory face coverings.
Employees who did get vaccinated were eligible for incentives, like additional leave/time off.
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