The nation’s largest trial court system announced on Thursday that its 4,600 employees would be required to get vaccinated against coronavirus “as a condition of employment.”
The Los Angeles County Superior Court told staffers in a letter that they must be immunized “no later than 45 days after the Food & Drug Administration gives finals approval to at least one COVID-19 vaccine.” According to a recent report by The New York Times, the federal agency is expected to fully approve Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine “by the start of next month.”
In the letter, which was obtained by the Los Angeles Times, the court’s top executive, Sherri Carter, said, “unvaccinated employees without an approved exclusion will be subject to termination.”
“Given the surge in cases fueled by the highly transmissible Delta variant – and recognizing that unvaccinated employees are at greater risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 within the workplace, including to the public that depends on Court services – the Court must take every measure available to protect against the virus,” she continued.
Employees may request an exemption for medical and religious reasons that the court will review on a case-by-case basis, officials said.
A statement from Carter and Presiding Judge Eric C. Taylor indicated the requirement would not affect judges, who are independently elected officials and “not subject to ‘employee’ policies and procedures.” However, they may still submit proof of vaccination if they choose.
“Vaccination is the chief tool we have as a society to keep everyone safe and end this pandemic,” said Judge Taylor. “Earlier this year, the Court worked with county health department officials to prioritize vaccinations for court staff, judicial officers and justice partners working in our court facilities. The Court is now proud to join healthcare companies, higher education, businesses, and government to do its part to promote public health and safety.”
The Times interviewed Michael Ferreira, president of the union representing courtroom interpreters in California, who told the outlet, “Our aim is, no one is going to get fired over this.”
“I don’t think if you are unvaccinated, you should be fired,” he told the Times. “No other government agency is doing this.”
More details from the Times:
L.A. County Superior Court has struggled to prevent coronavirus cases among the ranks of employees, attorneys and their clients, police and others who pass through its more than three dozen courthouses. At least four people who worked in L.A. County courthouses have died after falling ill with COVID-19, and the court system has recently reported positive cases among its staff and judges.
According to CBS2, “The Court has continuously required face masks since June 2020.”
The new vaccination mandate follows a similar executive order issued by L.A. County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda Solis on Wednesday, requiring 110,000 county employees to get the shot(s).
“The Court has a duty to protect the people we serve,” said Judge Taylor. “By ensuring a safe workplace, through mandatory vaccination, the Court is protecting both its employees who provide essential public services and those who are required to come into a courthouse.”
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