CEMA Voice - 9-29-21
Sep 30, 2021

CEMA Members, this is an update on implementation of the vaccine mandate covering several topics

Discipline Process for Affected Employees

Yesterday, ESA distributed documentation and a directive outlining how employees who are non-compliant with the vaccine mandate policy will be handled.  This process applies to employees who have neither submitted an exemption nor proof of vaccination.  This does not apply to employees who have submitted an exemption request and are still awaiting a final determination.  The policy outlines three separate paths for employees depending on status.  All employees are noticed to comply with the policy by tomorrow, September 30, or the following actions will be taken:

Probationary, Extra Help and Provisional: Will be released immediately.

Healthcare Workers: Will be placed on unpaid leave effective October 1st.  They may elect to use their leave banks if they choose to do so.  They will receive a notice outlining California Public Health Officer’s order that all healthcare workers must be vaccinated and an explanation that they are considered to be insubordinate.  Based on the order, the County is taking the position that vaccination is a requirement for the job and any incumbents not in compliance are failing to meet the minimum requirements/qualifications for their position.  The employee will receive a recommended discipline of termination and be scheduled for a Skelly Hearing in the following two weeks.

All Other Employees: Will receive a notice that they are considered insubordinate and an additional directive to be in compliance with the mandate policy.  Employees who do not comply with that final directive will be given a recommended discipline of termination and scheduled for a Skelly hearing.  The timeline is not defined as it is for healthcare workers, additionally, employees will be told that if they get vaccinated by the date of their Skelly hearing the recommended discipline will likely be reduced to a suspension.

Healthcare workers will note that this process treats them noticeably harsher than it does non-healthcare workers.  This is because the California Public Health Officer’s order provides a more robust legal protection for the County as an employer to take immediate action, not because the County holds any particular animus towards its healthcare workers.

While this does not apply to employees who are still awaiting a response on their exemption request, we can presume that the process for employees who are not approved for an exemption and choose not to get vaccinated will look similar to this.

Manager’s Role

Labor Relations directive to departments is that they should send the notifications to their employees.  Sending notices remotely will be feasible for some departments and managers but not others.  Where it’s necessary for you, as a CEMA manager, to meet with one of your employees to deliver a notice or a discipline as part of this process, we highly recommend that you request Labor Relations be present with or that they conduct the meeting.  We can anticipate that much of this process will be contentious and stressful.  Labor Relations is the department best suited to ensuring a consistent application of the policy, and consistent application of the policy protects both individuals and the employer from legal challenges.  ESA previously agreed that Labor Relations representatives will be available to assist in this process wherever needed.

Exemption Process

More than a thousand exemption requests were submitted following the vaccine mandate.  These requests are being vetted by EOD and by County Counsel.  While we previously heard from County leadership (and shared at site meetings) that religious exemptions would be difficult to attain and have a high level of scrutiny, there has been a shift in messaging.  We are now anticipating the majority of well-articulated, good faith religious exemptions will be approved.  Employees with questions or concerns or their individual exemption requests should reach out to their CEMA representative.  Finally, thank you to the EOD staff and CEMA members who have been working weekends to try and turn around the exemption requests as rapidly as possible.

As always, while we continue to address employee and union rights around the vaccine mandate process.  We do want to acknowledge that CEMA is overwhelmingly vaccinated—now north of 90%!


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