San Diego

Data Breaks Down Vaccine Mandate Exemptions for San Diego City Workers by Union

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Data from the city of San Diego shows how many city workers across several employee unions were given vaccine mandate exemptions.

The largest number of unvaccinated employees who’ve been granted exemptions belong to the San Diego Police Officers Association (POA).

According to numbers provided by the city, 324 members of the POA have been granted reasonable accommodation to remain on the job.

Here’s the employee group breakdown of those granted reasonable accommodation:

  • Municipal Employees Association – 261
  • Police Officers Association – 324
  • Am. Fed. of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 127 – 98
  • U.S. Defense Contract Audit Agency – 2
  • San Diego City Firefighters Local 145 – 77
  • Teamsters Local 911 – 14
  • Unrepresented/Unclassified – 15
Approximately 790 employees will approved for vaccine accommodations and will be required to get tested weekly, reports NBC 7's Artie Ojeda.

To date, 791 total employees have been approved for reasonable accommodation and exemption from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement.

Of that number, 772 were granted religious exemption and 19 were granted medical exemption. Only 15 have been denied.

"We are very serious about making sure our workplace is safe, not just for the employee and their co-workers, but for the public who seek public services,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria.

NBC 7's Omari Fleming explains the city's accommodations, and heard reaction to a police department captain.

Of the approximately 11,000 city of San Diego employees, 90% are fully vaccinated, according to Gloria. The high vaccination rate was one reason the city went forward with granting the exemptions.

The employees granted exemptions will be required to submit to weekly COVID-19 testing. The at-home style test kits will be provided by the state free of charge, another factor in granting the exemptions, according to Gloria.

"That makes accommodating these individuals a bit more feasible than it would have been before, in part because we can get it covered, in part because it’s easier to do, and lastly, because it’s such a small part of our workforce,” said Gloria.

Meanwhile, the city gave more details on how the evaluation process for those requesting an exemption.

“For the medical exemption requests, employees were required to provide documentation from a health care provider confirming their disability-based need for reasonable accommodation and medical exemption from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement. Requests were reviewed in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

“For the religious exemption requests, all information provided by employees in conjunction with and in support of their requests was reviewed and evaluated in accordance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, and the guidance of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing pertaining to religious accommodations,” according to Nicole Darling, Communications Department Director for the City of San Diego.

But not everyone was happy about the process.

“My concern is that we attempted at the POA to negotiate this exact resolution almost seven months ago. And for it to take this long for us to get to this resolution, has really become bad public policy,” said Jared Wilson, president of the San Diego POA.

The POA makes up the highest number of unvaccinated city employees with 441, according to the city.

Wilson claims, since last July when local employee unions were notified of the vaccine mandate, 65 officers left the force specifically because of the mandate and fear of losing their job.

That number has not been verified by the city.

The city is still in the process of reviewing 200 more exemption requests. Those who’ve been granted an exemption but refuse to submit to a weekly test face possible termination.

As a result of the previous vaccine mandate, three lawsuits were filed against the city, according to the Office of the City Attorney. The POA filed a writ for injunctive and declaratory relief, the Protection for the Educational Rights of Kids filed a civil suit in San Diego Superior Court and ReOpen San Diego filed a complaint in federal court.

“We are very serious about making sure our workplace is safe, not just for the employee and their co-workers, but for the public who seek public services,” said Gloria.

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